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A review of the impact of pipelines and power lines on biodiversity and strategies for mitigation

Abstract

Linear infrastructure such as pipelines and power lines is ubiquitous and responsible for loss of habitats and disruption of landscape connectivity. We reviewed published research to answer the following questions: (1) Which organisms are commonly used to indicate impacts of pipelines and power lines to biodiversity? (2) How do pipelines and power lines impact biodiversity? and (3) How are these impacts mitigated? Studies of pipelines most often used mammals and plants as bioindicators, whereas studies of power lines focused largely on birds and plants. A myriad of impacts were identified, including the mortality of plants during construction, changes to the structure and composition of plant and animal communities that resulted from construction, the creation of open and shrubby corridors within intact forests, and collisions and electrocutions of birds with power lines. However, in most studies baseline data were not collected, so magnitudes of the impacts are often unknown. Mitigation in many studies was mentioned only in the discussion as a way to reduce impacts, but mitigation techniques were rarely tested directly. We outline considerations when selecting bioindicators—research that takes a community- or ecosystem-level approach will more fully determine the scope of impacts of linear infrastructure than the historical approach of focusing on populations of select bioindicators. Mitigation strategies must ultimately result from appropriate baseline studies, scientific data collection and analyses, and be implemented within an adaptive management strategy.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Ashley Myers and Thea Mink for help with the literature search. This work was funded by USDA-NIFA (Award No. 2016-38831-25863), the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and the Kitimat LNG Operating General Partnership.

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Correspondence to Matthew L. Richardson.

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Communicated by Dirk Sven Schmeller.

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10531_2017_1341_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx

Online Appendix A Data from the primary literature elucidating the impact of pipelines and power lines on biodiversity and possible mitigation (XLSX 131 kb)

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Richardson, M.L., Wilson, B.A., Aiuto, D.A.S. et al. A review of the impact of pipelines and power lines on biodiversity and strategies for mitigation. Biodivers Conserv 26, 1801–1815 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-017-1341-9

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Keywords

  • Bioindicator
  • Ecosystem function
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Linear infrastructure
  • Mitigation hierarchy
  • Right of way