China is using the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to further its global connections. However, development necessarily entrains significant risks for biodiversity. Any infrastructure project on this scale will necessarily pass through eco-fragile regions and key biodiversity areas (KBAs).
Dr. Alice Hughes of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) conducted a study to identify possible areas of impact and probable effects on conservation values to facilitate adaptive planning and to mitigate, minimize, or avoid impacts.
The research result has been published in Conservation Biology.
Dr. Alice Hughes used high‐resolution GIS data to explore potential impacts of the BRI across all mapped land routes and considered how to reduce impact on key regions and scalable approaches to minimize threats to biodiversity.
She overlaid the proposed road and rail routes on KBAs, protected areas, and predicted biodiversity hotspots for over 4,138 animal and 7,371 plant species.
She also assessed the relationship between the proposed route with the distribution of mines across BRI countries and the proportion of deforestation and forest near routes.
"Infrastructure, especially mining, was clustered near the proposed route; thus, construction and development along the route may increase the size and number of mines", said Dr. Alice Hughes.
The researcher proposed that policies that ensure rigorous environmental impact assessments with international oversight and reportage are needed to safeguard intact ecosystems near the route.
"Supportive energy infrastructure and the impact of supply chains for building the route also require close scrutiny", said Dr. Alice Hughes.
According to the scientist, a combination of planning and mitigation strategies will likely be necessary to protect the most important areas for biodiversity proximal to development, especially in currently unprotected key biodiversity areas and other regions that need protection.
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