BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 08 May '17

New atlas compiled to stop roads and railways from blocking migration corridors

Experts have for the first time mapped the corridors of migratory mammals alongside threats from linear infrastructure, such as railways, roads, pipelines and border fences, across all Central Asia.

It’s hoped this migration atlas will help decision makers to take the needs of migratory species into account when building and planning any kind of infrastructure.

Movement is critical

Knowing exactly where the animals move and what kind of infrastructure is being constructed and planned in their range will help conservationists influence the location and design of the infrastructure – and mitigate negative impacts – at an early stage.

‘The growing number of railways, roads, pipelines and fences increasingly threatens migratory large mammals such as antelopes and gazelles in Central Asia. These obstacles severely fragment habitats and affect or even prevent wildlife migration which may result in significant species decline. These movements are critical to breed, feed, and avoid drought or winter weather. The atlas will help address key threats triggered by growing linear infrastructure development across critical habitats and migration corridors and reduce harm to the species in the region.’

BRADNEE CHAMBERS
Executive secretary of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)

Protecting open landscape

The upsurge in the construction of linear infrastructure has serious implications for the survival of many CMS-listed migratory species such as the Saiga Antelope, Mongolian Gazelle, Wild Camel, Asiatic Wild Ass and Argali Sheep, which depend on open interconnected landscapes to move freely over long distances.

The devastating impact of fences can be seen in Mongolia, where more than 5,300 Mongolian Gazelles (main image) died during the winter 2015 along the Trans-Mongolian Railway because they could not cross the fenced tracks to escape harsh weather events. See more on this tragedy here.

The maps making up the atlas have been reviewed and validated by international experts working across the region and will, once finally completed, be published on the CMS website and be publicly available and usable.

‘A critical step’

Eric Sanderson, Wildlife Conservation Society’s senior conservation ecologist, said WCS is mapping the range, distribution and movement patterns of key wildlife species alongside linear infrastructure – both existing and planned – that threatens movement of these species.

‘Central Asia is one of the last places on Earth that still has large, intact wild landscapes. These landscapes are crucial for the survival of many species – such as great herds of Saiga Antelope and Mongolian Gazelle, majestic Argali Sheep and Snow Leopards – which depend on moving across these enormous areas for their survival. This project is a critical step in identifying ways to mitigate impacts from fences, roads, and railroads that threaten the integrity of the great temperate grasslands and huge mountain ranges that support these unique species.’

PETER ZAHLER
Asia regional director of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)

The information, which will be compiled into an ‘Atlas’ for Central Asian wildlife, can then be used by government, industry, lenders, conservationists and research scientists to avoid or mitigate the single greatest threats to movement, and thus ultimately survival, of migratory mammals across Central Asia.

Click here for more from the Wildlife Conservation Society.