Protecting Wildlife at Construction Sites

Environmental Training Resource
February 15, 2013 — 12,047 views  
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The construction industry is undoubtedly one of the most resource-hungry and environmentally-detrimental industries in the world. Globally, the construction industry makes up for at least 40% of the net flow of raw resources into the economy. This amounts to a staggering figure of 3 billion cubic tons. The industry contributes nearly 9% of the global gross domestic product and is sometimes used as an indicator of prevailing economic conditions. The construction industry directly impacts the ecology and wildlife since it relies on the ecology for a major portion of these raw resources. Civil infrastructure development, industrial development, commercial development, and housing development projects are the different categories of construction activities that impact biodiversity and wildlife. 

Given the dependence of the construction industry on biodiversity, it may be stated that biodiversity impacts the construction industry immensely. Industry honchos have to focus on drawing up construction plans so as to minimize damage to biodiversity. Also, they have to take into consideration the dependence of the industry on biodiversity for the resources needed and tweaking their strategies accordingly.

Onsite Disturbance to Wildlife

Construction activities pose a serious threat to wildlife protection at the construction site. Construction requires land which could have a direct impact on the habitat of the wildlife in the area. The noise produced by construction activities can lead to alteration in feeding and breeding patterns which could prove detrimental to the surrounding flora and fauna. Badgers, bats, great crested newts, and birds are the most commonly affected species. The location and nature of construction activities should be planned only after taking into consideration the impact these activities would have on particular wildlife species. Wildlife protection at construction sites should be planned in such a manner that wildlife species are identified and construction plans formulated accordingly. Such planning practices should be aimed at isolating species based on the following methods:

  • Identifying areas where the most vulnerable species are known to occur.
  • Identifying areas inhabited by species requiring large tracts of habitat.
  • Identifying areas inhabited by species with low reproductive pedigree.

Off-site Disturbances to Wildlife

Off-site effects can also prove to be detrimental for wildlife and biodiversity. Wildlife protection at the construction site should take into account even off-site disturbances to wildlife. Off-site disturbances are of several types. Enumerated below are the common off-site effects:

  • Pollution of air and water - Pollution of these essential resources directly impacts wildlife and proves to be detrimental for the ecology.
  • Disturbances - Construction activities have a direct impact on the natural behavior of wildlife.
  • Increased vandalism and risk of fire - Construction work increases the risk of vandalism in eco-sensitive habitats and leads to increased stress on the local flora and fauna. Additionally, the risk of fire rises and can prove to be a major problem.
  • Ancillary development - The development of roads and other similar ancillary structures poses a very serious threat to the biodiversity. It should be noted that such developmental actions can sometimes skewer the geographical habitat of certain species and have a direct negative impact on wildlife.

Avoiding Sensitive Areas for Construction

Construction and development activities in the following types of areas should generally be avoided.

  • Areas where key habitats would suffer a direct impact, leading to a complete loss of habitat and damage to the abundance, distribution, and diversity of species present.
  • Areas which would suffer indirect impact in the form of increased ecological imbalance and stress resulting in a situation where the areas become incapable of supporting wildlife.
  • Areas wherein construction activities impact ecological quality and reduce its ability to support migration and genetic exchange of wild species.
  • Areas which can get fragmented by construction activity and end up with barriers between these fragments.

Restore and Enhance the Habitats

The need of the hour is to implement measures to reduce and mitigate the negative impact of construction on the ecology. The methodology enumerated below should be able to throw some light on these measures:

  • Restore and link together existing habitats and land features which could support wildlife. Retain within the development site existing tracts of habitat so as to save ecological strips that already exist.
  • Compensate for damage to natural habitats by recreating similar features, restoring, and improving the surrounding landscape to support wildlife and relocating habitats and/or species whenever necessary.
  • Manage relocated, altered, and existing habitat landscapes to ensure these landscapes fulfill the needs of existing flora and fauna.
  • Monitor all the above measures and look to enhance the altered, relocated, or newly created habitats. This would help ensure better wildlife protection at construction sites.

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