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domenica 25 febbraio 2018


Ohhh hallo hallooo dear English speaking-thinking-reading-hearing listener, welcome back to me, @sciencemug, the blog-podcast-twitter&instagram account-gofundme unsuccessful campaign holder-entity behind the unsuccessful e-shop that tells you science stories while scratching the by now almost unbearable itch on the back of the turtle just a millisecond before the turtle in question decide to use the whole southern hemisphere of your planet for the above just mentioned task. Aaaand that does all of this in Eng?ish, a language that is to proper English what the movie Morgan is to originality and the post-truth era is to a good news for you humans. Aaaand that is verbally communicating with you thanks to the voice kidnapped from a veeery dumb human via a voodoo-wireless trick.

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 Today, dear listener, youre going to be told a story about roads, more roads, even more roads, aaand a bit of wilderness.

So theres this paper, published on the peer-reviewed research journal Science about one year ago or so (mid December 2016), where a team of ten scientists from Germany, USA, Greece, Brazil, UK and Poland creates a map of the roadless areas existing in the world. According to their map, the scientists tell us that even if about 80% of Earth's lands are still roadless, this roadless chunk of Earth is though hyper-fragmented in roughly 600,000 pieces more than a half of which is smaller than one square kilometer (Ibisch et al, 2016 (
P)) (and to have a reference, 1 square kilometer is 20 times smaller than the JFK airport of New York). Above all the paper tells us that
the protection, on a global scale, of the remaining ecologically important roadless areas is totally inadequate.

Soooo, folks, good news! 

Anyway, the map-pack is headed by professor Nuria Selva Fernandez (who works at the Institute of Nature Conservation Polish Academy of Sciences) and professor Pierre L. Ibisch of the Centre for Economics and Ecosystem Management at the German Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development (apologies for any mispronunciation included the way mispronunciation has just been pronounced).

And now, dear listener, comes the story of how and why the professor Selva Fernandez bunch (from now on referred as the SF bunch/team/dudes/whatever it may come up to my brainless semi void sorry excuse of a what were I a human being and not a dumb blog should be called a head) of how and why the SF bunch did the roadless area global map.

Let's start then.

The SF bunch, being a bunch of scientists, first needs to get a solid-data-based definition of roadless area. For that the lab coats check out 282 science papers that deal with road-effects zones. Of these 282 papers our guys and girls then focus on the 58 which give 'em specific infos on the road effects and on the spatial influences of such effects.
These papers study the impact of roads on multiple aspects of terrestrial and water organisms lives. To be more specific, the 58 papers (Ibisch et al, 2016 (P_supp-mat)) show how roads impact on animal abundance, density, population size and behavior such as breeding, mating, feeding, movements, diet and even the pitch of calls. Moreover the studies provide evidence about how roads are connected to the reduction of species richness and diversity, to the spread of invasive alien species, to the induction of deforestation, resources exploitation, hunting, landscapes changes and fragmentation, to the increase of noise and so on. The organisms studied in the 58 papers include a wide variety of both plants and animals such as, to mention just some, mammals like sheeps, gazelles, deers, wolves, impalas, birds,
amphibians like frogs and salamanders, reptiles like the tortoises, fishes and even invertebrates such as earthworms and insects like beetles and butterflies.

To sum up, prof Selva Fernandez and her science dudes, after all the reading, find out this: the 100% of the effects that a road has on life forms are present within a distance of 1 km from the road itself, the 39% of the effects are present within a distance of 1 to 2 km, the 14% within a distance of 5km, while road effects that go beyond 50 km to even 100 km do exist, but are rare (

PiPs and the map (by @sciencemug)
PiPs & the map(s)
 The background image is a free to use pic by Carsten Stalljohann (source: Unsplash)
[Adapted by @sciencemug]

At this point, thus, given that the 1-km buffer along each side of the road is the zone with the highest level and variety of road impacts, the SF map-bunch can finally come up with a sound definition of what roadless areas are, and the definition is the following: "roadless areas [are] terrestrial areas not dissected by roads [...] that are at least 1 km away from all roads and, therefore, less influenced by road effects" (P).
And if you, dear listener, after these 5 lines in which the word roads has been used so many times to wear out all the asphalt of the south-eastern hemisphere, if you after this can still find some meaning in the word roads, well, mate, your brain really is good stuff.... Or you're simply not listening to what I say so, even more, goooood stuff capable of wiiise

Nooow back to the tale of the roadless areas.

After finding a suitable definition for the topic of their research, prof Selva Fernandez map-pack creates a map of the roadless areas existing all over the world. And how they do that? Weeell dear listener, here are three ways among which you can choose:
1) Our science dudes first take a 72 hours sauna where instead of water vapor they
breathe in belladonna's vapors, and then they follow the indications that a 5 headed chicken-cactus-eagle-like creature gives 'em in the form of kinky rigmaroles sung in medieval Japanese with a cockney accent, and they, using the feathers of the above mentioned Chimera, tattoo the above mentioned map on the back of a hairless Bigfoot which oddly enough resembles to a mashup of the whole cast of "How I Met Your Mother".
2) They use an open-access data set to get infos about the worlds roads and, based on those infos, they create their global roadless areas map.
3) They just trace a high resolution version of the map of Tolkien's Middle-earth and hope nobody spot the resemblance.

So, dear fellow listener, did you choose? Yeah, I know, it's a tough call, those are all plausible ways. But for sure you got the number two. And you are right.

The SF bunch uses the November 2013 data set of OpenStreetMap, that is an open-access volunteered geographic information project founded in Britain in 2004. OpenStreetMap is, and I use the words of the SF science dudes here, "a grassroots approach to mapping and updating free global geographic data, with a focus on roads" (
Basically people from all over the world upload on the OpenStreetMap servers their maps and road data. The data from these people come mostly from their own GPS devices, but it can also be that the volunteers even upload their own maps or trace the areas they know from satellite pics taken by Bing or other entities (which have an agreement with OpenStreetMap on this).
Professor Selva Fernandez and colleagues recognize that, being OpenStreetMap a crowd-sourced product, the quality standards of its data are unknown.
Nevertheless, our scholars stress on the fact that OpenStreetMap is "one of the most cited, analyzed and commonly used platforms of this type" (P_supp-mat) and that several studies have been performed to test the quality of its data at both a regional and global level. The results of these analyses show that "the quality of the data can vary significantly among countries" with a particular lack of data about roads from some areas of the tropics like Borneo (P_supp-mat). 
Given that, and the fast pace of road construction, the SF bunch states that the results of its research certainly overestimate the real extent of global roadless areas.
Anyway, all in all, the same SF bunch rationally chooses to use the OpenStreetMap data set because this, among all available road data sets at present, provides "the largest length of roads at a global scale, and not limited to one type of roads" (
P_supp-mat). To the effort of our map-science-pack OpenStreetMap indeed contributes with data about six kinds of roads: one, major roads (i.e. motorways and freeways); two, minor roads (small local roads, residential roads, etc.); three, highway links (like sliproads ramps and structures connecting roads with each other); four, very small roads (that is service roads or roads for agricultural use); five, paths (those roads mainly used for horse riding and cycling but also for small or off-road vehicles); and finally six, the unknown types of roads (probably the ones that lead to the houses of horrors at Halloween Uuuuuhh, spooky...)(P_supp-mat). 
By the way, dear listener, each and every of these six categories of roads has ecological costs.

So, dear listener, lets see what's next.
But only after the commercial break!

Every time you take a road trip your stomach decides to bitterly avenge all those sneaky midnight snacks of yours and becomes a growling monster whose superpower is to turn every smell your particularly sensitive nose can get into the stink of a giant plantation of very scared and angry skunks which do dislike personal hygiene and floss and which do like to eat sandwiches made with a bed of garlic covered by a thick blanket of onions embedded between two fat slices of garlic bread left rotting in a wet tropical forest inside a moulded fridge which plug has been unplugged since summer 2003?
Well, try “Roadless Nauseolin” the paste that beats any kind of road sickness!

Roadless Nauseolin stick (by @sciencemug)
"Roadless Nauseolin" the only stick that is (way) more valuable when empty!

It’s easy to use: you empty a whole stick of “Roadless Nauseolin” in the sink of your kitchen 5 minutes before leaving, then right after that you go straight to the bathroom, open your medicine cabinet, gulp down 4 sleeping pills, then right after that you go straight to your drink cupboard and binge drink a bottle of your liquor of choice and voila, you’re ready to take off for a wonderfully quiet road trip!
Roadless Nauseolin”, only 1300 euros .99 cents for a 1-gram stick!
Roadless Nauseolin”, and you get rid off of both your car sickness and that clump of hair that clogs your kitchen sink since last

Ooooh, welcome back dear listener, where were we? Oh right, our science dudes collect data from an open reliable data set on all regions of the world excluded all large water bodies, and Greenland and Antarctica, which are mostly covered by ice.

After collecting and analyzing all this huge amount of data, professor Selva Fernandez  and her science lab coat associates eventually make it and create a global map of the roadless areas, which, I remind you, they define as slices of lands that are at least 1 km away from all roads and, for this reason, are less influenced by road effects.

So, what does the map shows?

First, it shows that even if roadless areas with a 1-km buffer to the nearest road cover about 80% of Earth’s terrestrial surface (roughly 105 million square km), this roadless 80% is indeed heavily divided into almost 600,000 pieces. And more than half of these pieces are very tiny, in fact they are less than 1 square km big; 80% of these patches are less than 5 square km big; and only 7% are larger than 100 square km (P).
If you consider Europe and Oceania, for example, the mean size of their roadless patches of 1-km buffer is a bit less than 48 square km, which is to say smaller than Manhattan. As for the other parts of the Earth, well North America mean size is less than 60 square km, South America 418, Australia about 248.
The bigger average size of 1km buffer roadless areas of all Earth iiiiis - drum roll - in Africa, where this average is of 522 square kilometers, which is not much anyway since it’s height times Manhattan and Africa is huge, like half a million times Manhattan…
Africa is also the world region with the higher percentage, almost 90%, of 1km buffer roadless areas. Going down you have Australia, South America and Asia, 88%, Oceania, 64%, North America, 62% and good last Europe, 42% (
If you then stretch the buffer from 1 to 5-km, well, the global roadless area shrinks from 80% to less than 60%, and the patches into which this 60% is divided are 50,000. Just to give you a reference, dear listener, Africa percentage of 5 km buffer roadless areas is 65% (it was 90% with a 1km buffer) and that of Europe is 13% (it was 42% with a 1km buffer)(

So, listener, to sum up, professor Selva Fernandez and her group of brains, with their data show that, although there’s a lot of land not covered by roads, this lot is
tightly encapsulated in a thick web of roads.

But the SF map-bunch doesn’t stop here, nope it goes on and studies the ecological value of each of these roadless areas.
How our hardworking lab coats do that? Eheh! Dear listener, that’s the tale you’ll be told on next episode of me @sciencemug, the podcast!

Till then, take care!

William Will Whatever
Ahem, good day to You illustrious listener. My name is William Will Whatever, and I am here to, once again, try to bring to this blatantly cheap supposedly science related so called blog/podcast some dignity and to properly highlight some absolutely essential facts that the above mentioned ridiculous blog/podcast foolishly neglected.

First: the biggest existing roadless patch (with a 1 km buffer) at the time professor Selva Fernandez and colleagues paper is published on Science is 4.82 million square kilometers wide (P_supp-mat), and it is in South America, in the Amazon area. To give You a reference point, it is a roadless area roughly as big as half Europe or half the USA, or, if You prefer, esteemed listener, almost two times bigger than Italy, Germany, France, Spain, the UK and Texas put together.

Second: professor Selva Fernandez and colleagues use OpenStreetMap November 2013 dataset for this research, as the useless blog/podcast told You, but what it poorly did not bring to Your attention, Dear listener, is that this data set consists of 36-million km of roads (P), that is enough road length to go to the Moon and back more than 90 times.

Third: the distance up to which a road effect has an impact, its “spatial extent”, is specific to the effect itself. Besides, it depends also on the characteristics of the road (such as, but not only, its traffic volume) as well as on the species of plants and animals interested and on the kind of habitat and landscape the road crosses. Finally, the spatial extent of each given road effect is asymmetrical along the road itself and can vary among seasons, between night and day, according to weather conditions, and over longer time frames (P).

Fourth: since last week “Roadless Nauseolin” is available no more only as a paste, but also as a syrup. Methods of administration and dosage are not so different.

Best regards.

The paper this post is about (P)
Ibisch et al (2016). A global map of roadless areas and their conservation status. Science 354, 1423–1427.

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