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Alpi Marittime: Ecological corridors preventing car accidents

Traffic infrastructure

Car accidents involving wild animals, whose corridors have been cut through, decrease traffic safety enormously and cause death of many animals. © Frank Schultze/Zeitenspiegel

In the Italian Alpi Marittime Natural Park car crashes which involve ungulates are very common. In most cases those accidents, besides being hazardous for drivers' life, could have been avoided with a better territorial planning, a more careful infrastructure planning and a warier use of existing technologies. The Alpi Marittime natural park will make use of the new ways to help the passage for animals across busy roads, which have been tested in the Pilot region of Isère.
Not only ecological corridors preserve biodiversity, but they are also an effective tool to reduce car crashes on motorways. Wild animals, as ungulates, birds of prey, fishes and amphibians, are always moving on the same routes in order to feed or to reproduce. It may happen that these routes are crossed by motorways; this situation puts a potentially dangerous situation both for drivers and terrestrial species.
According to Alpi Marittime natural park, one of the seven Pilot Regions that constitutes the ECONNECT project, during the last two years car crashes which involved ungulates have been 419 in the Cuneo district (data by Cuneo Provincial Administration, Flora and Fauna Safeguard District). In most cases those accidents, besides being hazardous for drivers' life, could have been avoided with a better territorial planning, a more careful infrastructure planning and a warier use of existing technologies. New ways to aid the passage of animals across busy roads are tested in the French department of Isère (an Econnect Pilot Region as well), by placing motion and heat detectors on both sides of a road which, using an intermittent signal, warn the driver of a wild animal oncoming passage.
The Alpi Marittime national park was chosen due to its high biodiversity value and its geographical position, considered as a link among the Alps and Provence, the Mediterranean sea and the Padana plain. Other Italian institutions supporting this project are: Aosta Valley Autonomous Region, the European Academy of Bolzano, the Ministry of the Environment and WWF Italy. The Parc National du Mercantour (France) and the Fluvial Park Gesso and Stura, directly involved by the Alpi Marittime Park with other authorities and institutions which are able to contribute to concretely deal with problems regarding conservation and biodiversity because of their competence, are even involved in this project.
Econnect project aims at creating ecological corridors (natural spaces where spreading of flora and fauna is free and not hampered by artificial barriers) among several Alpine areas, a good way to secure the preservation of genome, that is essential for the survival of species. Moreover, Econnect promotes the creation of a net that, by a common approach to the problems, permits crossing scientific and methodological "frontiers".
Three main plans make the Italian Park deserving attention:
- Aerial connectivity: reducing the danger for alpine galliformes (black grouse, rock ptarmigan and rock partridge) due to hanging cables of ski lifts or power lines. Improvements for safety of migrating birds of prey will be made, particularly all along the Stura Valley course, where wind turbine will be probably installed.
- Water connectivity: considering all the barriers placed on creeks and finding solutions to reduce or eliminate hindrances for the moving of water flora and fauna.
- Terrestrial connectivity: locating infrastructures considered as a problem for most sensitive species.

Further information on ECONNECT Project: www.econnectproject.eu