Oooook, let’s start with a quick recap of the previous episodes.
There’s an international bunch of researchers headed by professor Nuria Selva Fernandez, presently working at the Institute of Nature Conservation Polish Academy of Sciences. The researchers publish a paper on Science where they tell us they created a map of the world’s roadless areas, that is the “terrestrial areas not dissected by roads […]” “that are at least 1 km away from all roads and, therefore, less influenced by road effects”(P).
The scientists’ map shows that roadless areas with a 1-km buffer to the nearest road cover about 80% of Earth’s land (105 million square kilometers circa).
Moreover the good researchers create a unit-less index (called EVIRA, as in Ecological Value Index of Roadless Areas) that scores the ecological value of the above mentioned roadless areas. The index goes form 0 (0 being the slums of District 9) to 80 (80 being a very good spot of nature among human stuff).
About one third of the roadless areas have a low EVIRA score, but both low and high ecological valuable roadless areas are only by a tiny fraction inside protected lands.
This means, the researchers say, that “[g]lobal protection of ecologically valuable roadless areas is inadequate” (P) and that there “is an urgent need for a global strategy for the effective conservation, restoration, and monitoring of roadless areas and the ecosystems that they encompass” (P).
And this is proven by two of the most important global initiative that exist at present to preserve biodiversity and promote a sustainable development: the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 (1), and the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2). Both this global initiatives fail to take into consideration the impact of roads on ecosystems and the need to safeguard roadless areas, in fact the reaching of many of their proposed goals somehow conflicts with the possibility to actually preserve the roadless areas.
If you want a quick example of how important is to protect raodless areas think of this: in the Amazon, unprotected areas near roads and rivers have four times more deforestation than protected areas (3).
So these are the results professor Selva Fernandez and her colleagues get from their massive research work.
But why do they even care to do such a work, meaning why do they pick roads and roadless areas as the topic of their research?
Weeell dear listener, the answer is: because roads effects on the environment are huge, and the value of roadless areas are huge as well.
Let’s start with a deep look of roads effects, ok? Oh and by the way, dear listener, make no mistake, any type of road causes some effect on the ecosystem, so not only the long, wide paved ones like highways, but also the short, narrow almost invisible unpaved ones, such as a path or less. (P).
Ok, then, there are seven general direct and indirect effects roads have on ecosystems: “mortality from road construction, mortality from collision with vehicles,