High-voltage electricity lines can become one of the most important elements for improving species’ connectivity between different natural habitats which, when properly managed, gives these infrastructures previously unknown value for the conservation of some species. This has been one from the conclusions drawn from the study titled Identification and Diagnosis of Power Lines as Stepping Stones for Fauna that researcher Manuela de Lucas from the Doñana Biological Station (CSIC) has presented this week at the 3rd International Congress on Bird Migration and Global Change.
According to the study, power line towers are often shelter areas or stepping stones that different species of fauna use as stopover sites between one habitat and another.
The work was carried out between 2008 and 2012 in three defined areas of two electricity lines in the province of Cordoba with the aim of finding out whether or not the electricity lines towers can be stepping stones. In one area, shrub species native to the area were replanted and a set of shelters was set up for fauna. The other two areas were used as control samples. During three consecutive years and throughout all the seasons of the year, the task force carried out bird, invertebrate and small mammal sampling in the three study areas.
‘We found a significant increase in the diversity and abundance of birds when we compared the revegetated area to the control areas. We also observed a higher density of invertebrates and small mammals where we had placed these shelters’, said Manuela de Lucas.
Therefore, connectivity proves to be a critical strategy in biodiversity management policies and ensuring the possibility of dispersion and gene flow, both crucial for avoiding extinction, through the creation or adaptation of wildlife corridors and shelter areas.
She also understands that Red Eléctrica's high-voltage electricity lines currently make up the largest grid of potential interconnections between natural interest areas and the Natura 2000 Network in the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe, meaning a responsibility and a new challenge in its biodiversity conservation strategy.
Red Eléctrica, which last year announced an investment of more than two million euros to mark more than 500 kilometres of high-voltage electricity lines with bird-flight diverters with the aim of reducing the potential risk of birds colliding with power transmission lines, now sees how many of these lines that cross areas of great natural interest can spontaneously contribute to the connectivity of habitats and the improvement of biodiversity.
Red Eléctrica’s Biodiversity Plan
Since 2017, Red Eléctrica has had a Biodiversity Action Plan which will be in force for five years and includes objectives and the specific actions linked to them with a budget of over eight million euros.
The challenges regarding biodiversity include incorporating new approaches and concepts by fostering innovation applied to solutions for conserving it; boosting its management at the Group's subsidiaries and bringing the commitment to the supply chain; making the facilities of the transport network compatible with biodiversity and habitats of great ecological value; promoting active participation in biodiversity conservation projects; and fostering communication of the company's positioning in this area.
In 2014, Red Eléctrica was awarded the 2014 European Business Award for the Environment in the Business and Biodiversity category thanks to its project ‘Mapping of Flight Paths’, an unprecedented geographic information system (GIS) at a national level which integrates data about bird flight paths with the aim of minimising the impact of new power lines on avifauna and prioritising corrective actions for existing lines.