The open spaces beneath our electricity transmission lines in forested areas act as biodiversity reservoirs, and those in intensive agricultural areas act as refuges for the local fauna.
This is apparent in the first results of a study carried out by the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona in the Montseny nature reserve. The study forms part of Naturaleza en RED, a pilot project by the UAB in collaboration with the Red Eléctrica Group to analyse the role of the areas beneath Red Eléctrica de España’s electricity transmission lines, which are known as safety corridors. The initiative includes the creation of an evaluation protocol for these micro-habitats, using a general ecosystem analysis.
Today, most land is dedicated to intensive farming and the forests are becoming more compact, older and less diverse. There is a lack of natural open spaces and the result is a loss of biodiversity. Forest management is carried out regularly in the safety corridors of the electricity lines to prevent electricity hazards and fires, and this leads to the creation of two types of areas: open spaces (when the management has been carried out recently) and closed spaces (when the habitat has grown back). Therefore, these corridors that run beneath the electricity lines can provide open spaces in forested areas and closed spaces in open areas.
The first results of the study indicate that there is a significant increase in floral density, abundance of pollinators, abundance and variety of butterflies during the day and confirm that the electricity lines function as biodiversity reservoirs in forests and as a refuge for local fauna when the surrounding area is open and is affected by human activities.
Naturaleza en RED started in the summer of 2020 and will end in December 2021. The objective of the project is to monitor the biodiversity associated with electricity lines in three protected areas at different altitudes, namely in Sant Celoni, Coll Formic and Seva.
The study is analysing the diversity and density of flora, the presence of butterflies during the day and their life cycles, their strict ecological needs (plants to feed adults and larva) and mobility, as well as the abundance of large groups of pollinating insects. It will be used to establish maintenance protocols for the safety corridors of the electricity transmission lines.
Naturaleza en RED is directed by the professors of the Animal Biology, Plant Biology and Ecology Department of the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Xavier Munill, Ona Font and Ana Morton.