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Road ecology in environmental assessment

(Ekologiska konsekvenser av transportintrastruktur i miljöbedömning)


Project leader: Berit Balfors
Participants: Mårten Karlson, Ulla Mörtberg
Keywords: Road ecology, Biodiversity, Transportation infrastructure, Environmental Impact Assessment, Strategic Environmental Assessment
Funding: FORMAS
Project period: 2011-2015

Project description

Road networks are known to cause a wide range of impacts on their surrounding environment, and the growth of terrestrial transportation infrastructure is one of the major drivers for land use change globally. The way roads and railways sever the landscape sometimes drastically change ecological patterns and functions, with major consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem services. The impacts from roads and railways have been studied for decades, and the concept of “road ecology” is nowadays well established among other ecological disciplines. However, to account for all the known impacts of linear infrastructure in the planning and design of new infrastructural projects has proven to be very difficult in practice.

Frequently occurring problems in the assessment of road and railways projects are a general lack of ecological data and site specific landscape functions. Even then, when an assessment is made and impacts can be described with a reasonable amount of certainty, the societal cost of suffering such impacts doesn’t necessarily align with contemporary appraisal tools, and might be very hard to compare with the associated benefits of the project.


The overall aim with this project is to review existing research on road ecology and develop tools and methods for integration of this knowledge into the design and construction of linear infrastructure.


The project is part of the strategic research project ” Environmental assessment of road geology and ecology in a system perspective ”, funded by FORMAS, in cooperation with several research groups at KTH: Engineering Geology and Geophysics, Environmental Physics, Highway and Railway Engineering and Environmental Strategies Research Group; and Lund University.


Karlson, M., Karlsson, C., Mörtberg, U., Olofsson, B. & Balfors, B. 2016. Design and evaluaon of railway corridors based on spatial ecological and geological criteria . Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 46: 207-228.

Karlson, M. 2015. Road ecology for environmental assessment . Doctoral thesis, Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Science and Engineering, KTH. TRITA-LWR PHD 2015:06.

Karlson, M. & Mörtberg, U. 2015. A spatial ecological assessment of fragmentation and disturbance effects of the Swedish road network . Landscape and Urban Planning 134: 53-65.

Karlson, M., Mörtberg, U. & Balfors, B. 2014. Road ecology in environmental impact assessment . Environmental Impact Assessment Review 48: 10-19.

Karlson, M. 2013. Ecology, transport infrastructure and environmental assessment . Licentiate thesis, Department of Land and Water Resources Engineering, KTH. TRITA-LWR.LIC 2068.