More than 20 speakers and nearly 200 attendees made history last week as participants in the first-of-its-kind gathering to share knowledge for making transportation infrastructure more sustainable across Asia. As many countries in the region expand their networks of roads, rails, and other modes of transportation, such development can provide vast economic and social benefits but also present challenges to nature conservation and local communities. Therefore, on December 16-17, 2021, the 1st Asia Transportation Ecology Forum was held to explore how this development is already impacting ecosystems—affecting species from butterflies to elephants—and how science-based solutions can be applied to conserve Asia’s rich biodiversity. 

The hybrid virtual and in-person meeting was sponsored by the China Academy of Transportation Sciences (CATS) and featured experts highlighting the role of the transportation sector in biodiversity conservation, lowering carbon emissions, and strengthening community benefits. Attendees joined from eight Asian countries along with several other countries and represented a cross-section of professional fields.  

The Center for Large Landscape Conservation was proud to co-sponsor the event, along with several other partners, and participate in the sessions. The Center’s Senior Conservationist Rob Ament, in his role as co-chair of the IUCN WCPA-CCSG Transport Working Group, presented about growing collaboration in Asia and the role of the international Asian Elephant Transport Working Group to inform actions for conserving this endangered species. 

Panelists during the session “Habitat, connectivity, and biodiversity conservation.”

During the Forum, the Vice President of CATS, Prof. Jiding Chen, provided the opening speech, closing summary, and keynote presentation on advances in road ecology in China. Other speakers covered multiple modes of infrastructure and featured research findings, case studies, and insights from collaborators working to advance knowledge and actions among global networks of professionals and institutions.

The work presented included both in-depth analysis about impacts of existing transportation infrastructure on wildlife, and also solutions for better route planning to avoid negative impacts, best engineering practices, the role of financial institutions in development projects, and addressing the impacts of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (see details below).

Overall, the forum advanced discussions among many experts from across the field, and participants look forward to maintaining regular communication to elevate Asian transportation ecology research and applications. The organizers and co-sponsors are pleased to have highlighted the growing field of transportation ecology across Asia and the leading role that CATS plays in the field in China and increasingly around the world. CATS anticipates holding the forum on a biannual basis to provide a platform for promoting ongoing international exchange and cooperation.   

Co-sponsors of the 1st Asia Transportation Ecology Forum included the IUCN WCPA Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group’s Transport Working Group (TWG); Australasian Network for Ecology and Transportation (ANET); World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), China; Zoological Society of London (ZSL); Center for Large Landscape Conservation (CLLC); and Environmental and Sustainability Division, China Highway & Transportation Society (CHTS’S ESD). 

Above: The Center’s Rob Ament presents about growing collaboration in Asia and the role of the Asian Elephant Transport Working Group.
Above: Becky Shu Chen presents in the session : “Mitigating impacts of linear infrastructure on Asian elephants

Forum Sessions:

  • Session 1: Evidence-based monitoring and evaluation
    • Introduction by Shuangcheng Tao, Deputy Director of CATS;
    • ‘Overview: Road ecology in China’ by Prof. Jiding Chen, Vice President of CATS;
    • ‘Establishing crossing options for migratory ungulates along the Trans-Mongolian Railroad’ by Enkhtuvshin Shiilegdamba, Program Director at WCS Mongolia;
    • ‘Do butterflies avoid roads’ by Dr. Qilin Li from Hainan Tropical Ocean University in China;
    • ‘The effectiveness of mitigation measures for reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions and providing connectivity in Japan’ by Yoichi Sonoda, Chief Researcher for Regional Environment Planning Inc. in Japan; 
    • ‘Evaluating aircraft-wildlife collision risk in lower aerial space operation’ by Dr. Xiaoyu Wu at Griffith University in Australia; and
    • ‘Impacts of linear transport infrastructure on wildlife and conservation in China’ by Dr. Yun Wan at CATS.
  • Session 2: Habitat, connectivity, and biodiversity conservation 
    • Introduction by Dr. Aili King, Strategic Engagement Director at Wildlife Conservation Society, China;
    • ‘Connecting researchers and practitioners in transport ecology’ by Dr. Rodney van der Ree, Chair of ANET;
    • ‘Impacts of linear transport infrastructure on wildlife habitat and population connectivity – Case studies in China’ by Dr. Abudusaimaiti Maierdiyali and Prof. Zhi Lü at Peking University;
    • ‘A review of linear infrastructure impacts on biodiversity in Asia’ by Dr. Aditya Gangadharan, Land Programme Lead at Nature Conservancy India;
    • ‘Sustainable linear infrastructure route planning tool for ecological, environmental, and socio-economic values’ by Dr. Binbin Li at Duke Kunshan University in China; and
    • ‘Working with engineers on integrating biodiversity conservation in South Asia’ by Karma Yangzom, Principal Environment Specialist at the Asian Development Bank.
  • Session 3: Mitigating impacts of linear infrastructure on Asian elephants
    • ‘Collaboration in Asia and the role of the Asian Elephant Transport Working Group’ by Rob Ament, Co-chair of the IUCN WCPA-CCSG Transport Working Group;
    • ‘Importance of addressing threats of transport infrastructure to Asian elephant corridors’ by Dr. Sandeep Tiwari, Program Manager of the IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group;
    • ‘Case study from China’ by Shu Chen at the Zoological Society of London and Dr. Yun Wang;
    • ‘Case study from Malaysia’ by Dr. Wong Ee Phin, Principal Investigator at Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME); and
    • ‘Case study from India’ by Dr. Dipankar Ghose, Director of the Wildlife & Habitats Division at WWF-India.
  • Session 4: Policy, finance, and practice
    • Introduction by Dr. Yun Wang;
    • ‘Transportation infrastructure and green finance policy’ by Xia Li, Director of the Foreign Environmental Cooperation Center at the Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment;
    • ‘Case studies on design and management of transportation corridors around or within national parks in Indonesia’ by Dr. Titiek Setyawati, Ministry of Forestry and Environment, Indonesia;
    • ‘Practice of ecological protection on the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway, Kenya’ by Prof. Qijun Jia, Director of the China Road & Bridge Corporation; and
    • ‘Achievements and experience of the Belt and Road Initiative in Pakistan’ by Neshmiya A. Khan, Coordinator of Policy & Safeguards at WWF-Pakistan.