Biological infrastructure – a physical planners tool box for spatial analyses of landscape ecological values
Swedish transport infrastructure planning has previously not integrated landscape ecological aspects in a structured way. Assessment and conservation of landscape scale patterns and processes have been arbitrary, scattered and hence insufficient. Biological data are building up from various surveys and reporting systems, but the general patterns of importance in physical planning are lost in the overflow of data. As a consequence, transport infrastructures continue to nibble biodiversity. To overcome this shortcoming, we developed the tool box ”Biological Infrastructure” (BI), a package of spatial analysis methods adapted for early stage physical planning. The package includes i) scoping for relevant habitats and species, ii) identifying biodiversity hotspots, iii) analysing habitat suitability (HSI modelling), and iv) assessment of landscape scale connectivity (e.g. habitat clusters, dispersal corridors). The combination of these components provides a generalized picture of biodiversity that can be integrated in interdisciplinary analyses such as a Landscape Character Assessment. In a physical planning perspective, the BI tool box points out where a proposed land exploitation, such as a major road or railway, can be made with the least impact on landscape ecological values, and accordingly where the development can progress with minimum obstacles from nature conservation. It also points out areas where nature conservation requires special consideration, thereby allowing for a reasonable budgeting for impact mitigation and compensation. The BI tool box has been applied in a number of real infrastructure and urban planning projects, and has there proven efficient in the integration in interdisciplinary landscape planning, in communicating biodiversity values to decision makers, and in scoping for the further planning process (such as the EIA).