Jointly advancing infrastructure and biodiversity conservation
A team from the Network for Engineering With Nature recently published a comment in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, describing the opportunity that comes with melding biodiversity conservation and innovation in infrastructure, as well as the crucial importance for our society in seizing that opportunity. The paper describes in brief the separate histories of infrastructure and conservation science, then details how changing thought about the relationship between humankind and the natural world gradually brought the two fields together.
The emerging field of natural infrastructure, or infrastructure systems that utilize, rehabilitate or mimic natural ecological processes, provides a clear path forward for incorporating biodiversity and infrastructure goals. However, in order to ensure that benefits for biodiversity and societal needs for infrastructure are fully realized, and at scales that will be globally impactful, several steps are still needed. The authors outline the steps required of the scientific community, industry partners, legislators, and beyond.
“However, a marked rethinking of civil infrastructure systems and nature’s contributions to their performance now presents an exceptional opportunity for synergy: services provided by natural infrastructure can be harnessed to meet societal needs while also conserving or enhancing biodiversity.” (McKay et al. 2023)
These steps are broken down into four tasks: 1) To gather additional scientific evidence, 2) To translate science into practical guidelines, 3) To update policy to match science and practice and finally, 4) To foster agility and collaboration in institutions and professionals.