Importance Of Nature Conservation In Civil Engineering
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Globally, civil engineering especially for construction industry is arguably one of the most resource-intensive and environmentally damaging industries in the world. Construction accounts for 40% of the total flow of raw materials into the global economy every year. The sector operates through land use planners, who determine the location and nature of development, clients, including house builders and commercial property developers, who determine what should be built on a site and where, designers who decide on the detail of building, materials and components suppliers who extract and or manufacture materials and components, for use by the contractors who actually do the building. In addition to these groups, there are others such as surveyors, architects, letting agents, consultants, finance institutions and insurance companies, all of whom have an influence over the industry and its impact on the environment.
Since mining and quarrying is dealt with in a separate section this section mainly covers material relevant to four key groups – planners, clients, designers and contractors. When considering the potential nature conservation impacts and opportunities of the sector it is probably appropriate to recognise four main subdivisions: housing (both public and private), commercial development, industrial development, civil engineering infrastructure (such as water treatment and distribution, roads, railways and airports). Area based or regeneration projects often involve all of the above plus public realm projects such as libraries or community buildings and green spaces such as parks and community gardens. Construction projects, whether commercial developments, infrastructure or public sector projects all have the potential to impact on natural habitats, affecting wildlife and plant species.
The construction sector is also an important user of resources, many of which are produced or derived through processes which impact on biodiversity. The construction industry therefore has an important role to play in protecting sensitive sites and minimising damage to ecology. There are also the opportunities to enhance biodiversity by creating habitats as part of the construction or development project. When construction are running whether there still on the early stage, ongoing or at late stage it will give an impact on biodiversity enviroment, such as on site disturbance. Impacts on protected species at designated sites are significant. Bats, badgers and great crested newts are those most commonly affected, along with several bird species. The presence of a protected species at a given site often only comes to light late in the day. This has the effect of introducing delays and conflict into the development process and it becomes clear that these species are seen as an inconvenience and impediments.
40% of Natural Areas highlight ‘development’ as a significant issue, primarily coastal, maritime and lowlands Natural Areas. The issues identified typically relate to the protection of prime sites from damaging development, but broader issues of coastal squeeze, water resources, protected species and geological resources are also highlighted. Second, off-site impacts on habitats where increasing significance are offsite effects of development on adjacent areas. These indirect effects may include pollution of air and water, hydrological impacts, disturbance, increased risk of vandalism, fires and fly tipping, unregulated access, isolation or fragmentation, ancillary development and operations (such as access roads and dredging) and the displacement of individuals and populations of species leading to increased pressure on other sites. These effects are often poorly addressed in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and their significance is often not recognised or acknowledged by decision makers. Nevertheless such effects may be as harmful to a site as direct loss.
Third, disturbance and fragmentation construction needs land and the use of land can have direct impacts in terms of destruction of habitats and more subtle effects on biodiversity such as disturbance and fragmentation. Noise and light generated during construction processes may not directly harm individual animals but it could affect feeding and breeding behaviours which could have negative impacts on long term population levels. The use of land may also divide up land and separate habitats which were previously adjacent. This can influence population dynamics especially for mobile species which rely on large habitats. The impact of fragmenting habitats on different species can be complex and can lead to gradual decline in populations which is difficult to attribute to a specific cause. And fourth, sourcing of materials, which is the materials used and their processing and production will have a major impact on biodiversity. Timber, gravel, sand, iron ore, rocks etc are all major materials needed for the construction industry and the production of these materials can impact heavily on biodiversity.
With that kind of impact on biodiversity we should take an action before it’s too late. Firstly, enchance the overall ecological quality, extent, capacity, structure and functioning of the site and the surrounding ecological network by creating new habitats, buffer areas and landscape features that are of importance for wildlife. Such effort should particularly be concentrated in areas where the most important, fragile or threatened habitats and species are known to occur. Where there are species requiring large ranges and those with limited powers of dispersal, which have particularly suffered as a result of habitat patches becoming reduced in size and isolated within intensively managed modern and often inhospitable landscapes. Species with low reproductive capacity or species highly sensitive to disturbance, and species subject to recovery programmes.
We must avoid frrom developing sites, and locations within sites, where existing key habitats, important species, buffer areas and other landscape features of major importance for wildlife would suffer direct impact resulting in the reduction or complete loss of habitat present, the abundance, distribution and/or diversity of species present. Suffer an indirect impact from nearby development through increased ecological disturbance and stress, thereby reducing the site’s capacity to support the wildlife present. Suffer a reduction in ecological quality so that the site is no longer able to support the migration, dispersal or genetic exchange of wild species. Be further fragmented from other similar features by development that causes a barrier effect in the landscape between fragments. Restore where possible, link and connect existing habitats and landscape features which could potentially be of major importance for wildlife. Enhancing their intrinsic quality and also their ability to support migration, dispersal and genetic exchange.
Retain and incorporate within the development site layout existing habitats, important species, buffer areas and landscape features of major importance for wildlife. Make sure that the site retains at least the same capacity to support the diversity, abundance, migration, dispersal and genetic exchange of wildlife as it did prior to development. Compensate for features lost to development through re-creation as nearby as possible of features and landforms capable of maintaining the same ecological functions and with the same capacity to support at least the same ecological functions and with the same capacity to support at least the same quantity and quality of habitats and species as would otherwise be lost or displaced through development. Restoration and enhancement of surrounding/nearby features unaffected by development. Creation of new or additional buffer areas to reduce impacts. Translocation, where possible, of habitats and species that would otherwise be lost. Managing existing, restored, newly created or translocated habitats and landscape features of major importance for wildlife to ensure that they are unaffected by the new development and continue to support wild fauna and flora.
Other action that we can take is protection of forest land. forestry has considerable impact on biodiversity in worldwide while, at the same time, forests are an important source of renewable raw materials. Valuable natural forest and other biotopes worthy of protection are threatened by felling and also by various kinds of air pollution. Today some 95 percent of productive forest land is used for forestry. Only few productive forest land is protected as national parks, nature reserves or habitat protection areas. A large part of these protected areas are sub-alpine forest. Efforts mut be made in to strengthen and increase the protection of forest. At the same time, foresters bear substantial responsibility for ensuring that their operations are conducted in an environmentally correct way. The forest industry manages a renewable resource of great importance both for us and for plants and animals. Why we do nature conservation and the answer is simple because we need intact nature.
For construction businesses, working for biodiversity generally means good business practice. It helps to secure licenses to operate from official authorities as well as the local communities in which construction is been undertaken. There are potential cost savings to be gained by thinking ahead and planning for biodiversity. Having green spaces and areas for wildlife will also add value to certain developments such as housing projects. Biodiversity is also a useful means of engaging these communities in the industry and helping to strike a balance between social, economic and environmental needs of sustainable development. A mixture of legislative pressure, market forces, investor concern and client demand are moving companies towards identifying and reporting on their environmental and social impacts. It is becoming clear that the reputation of construction industries is not good in many quarters. Ignore biodiversity and your reputation, access to licenses and access to capital could be threatened.