Our transportation infrastructure cuts through diverse ecosystems of land, water, plants, fish and wildlife that use these areas for habitat and food. Accordingly, transportation can have a significant impact on these ecosystems. Over time, many of Minnesota’s natural habitats have been lost to development and cultivation since colonists began arriving in the state. Much of the undisturbed or infrequently disturbed lands surrounding transportation infrastructure are playing an increasingly important role in maintaining ecosystems.
The state’s biodiversity is threatened by many factors, including the transportation system. Transportation infrastructure like roads, airports and railways can impact biodiversity in many ways. Infrastructure can divide habitats making it difficult for wildlife to safety navigate through its habitat. Transportation introduces invasive species by making international and intercontinental travel much easier and more frequent. In general, habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation are the three leading causes of biodiversity decline in the state. Today, 130 native Minnesota species are endangered within the state with additional species being added by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Populations of monarch butterflies 1, rusty-patched bumble bees2 and little brown bats3 in particular have declined dramatically in recent years.
There are strategies to limit the impact of transportation infrastructure on local ecosystems. Some of these strategies include creating safe passages along the routes that directly fragment habitats, discouraging wildlife entering roadways by using fencing, designing culverts and bridges to best allow fish and other aquatic organism passage and limiting the spread of invasive species in water and on land. Protecting the biodiversity of Minnesota is essential for the well-being of communities and the environment. Transportation agencies can be a part of reversing a trend of continued environmental and ecological degradation.
- “2017 Annual Report.” Minnesota State Agency Pollinator Report. Environmental Quality Board, 2018. https://www.eqb.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/documents/2017 State Agency Pollinator Report_ accessible.pdf.
- “In a Race Against Extinction, Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Is Listed as Endangered.” Newsroom. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region, January 10, 2017. https://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/861.html.
- “Bat Population Decline Continues as Expected.” Newsroom. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, March 28, 2019. https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/news/2019/03/28/bat-population-decline-continues-as-expected.
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Biodiversity was previously included within Environmental Quality. The original Environmental Quality Trend Papers are below.