Traffic is a major cause of mortality for much of the UK's wildlife. Thankfully, however, crossing busy roads could soon become easier for Britain's animals, as a new report may see green bridges become increasingly common throughout the country.
These structures, which are also known as landscape bridges or wildlife overpasses, are built specifically to allow wildlife to cross roads or railway lines in safety and are usually planted with a variety of local trees and vegetation to maintain a natural appearance.
Green bridges are already commonplace in Europe and North America, but only a small number have been built in the UK. However, that may soon change, as a new report undertaken by Land Use Consultants on behalf of Natural England could see the structures become an important part of the sustainability of future transport projects.
Entitled 'Green Bridges - A literature review', the study assessed scientific evidence from 56 sites across the world. It found green bridges deliver a number of benefits, including:
- Improved safety of wildlife movement
- Joining up habitats and connecting colonies
- Being used by animals as a home in their own right
- Better integrating roads and railways into the surrounding landscape
Natural England is the government's conservation agency, which is tasked with providing advice on environmental impacts to planning authorities and developers to ensure sustainability. As a result of the research, the organisation will now be able to help ensure green bridges are factored into future transport developments and potentially convert existing bridges into wildlife-friendly structures.
Clare Warburton, Natural England’s senior transport specialist, stated: "People often think of roads and railways as cutting a swathe through important wildlife habitat, but this study shows that green bridges can significantly reduce their environmental impact."
Sheena Crombie, senior ecological advisor at Highways England, said the report provides clarity on some of the uncertainties that had previously held back construction of green bridges, namely a lack of knowledge on how the structures work and function, and whether the benefits justify the cost.
Hopefully, the positive research means green bridges will become a common site across the UK in the not-too-distant future.