Operation of safe, intelligent, sustainable motorways. Motorway-ecosystem interactions

4th CENIT Programme, Centre for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI), Ministry of Science and Innovation (CENIT-2008 1016). 2008-2012.

The TEG research group participated in this project with two lines of research. The first one looked at interactions between vertebrate species in road ecosystems and their behaviour in the matrix ecosystem. This project addressed the permeability of the infrastructure and also the management of the vertebrate community shaped by it. The second line took an in-depth look at some of the processes that affect the dynamics of herbaceous vegetation in road ecosystems and the implications for their management once the motorway is in operation.


Specific objectives (fauna):

  • Ascertain which habitat variables are associated with dense populations of certain vertebrates in the area around the road. This study focused on species such as rabbits and various micro-mammals that can compromise embankment stability and attract other animals as a food source.
  • Ascertain which parameters of these vertebrates’ life cycle (birth rate, mortality) are decisive for their greater abundance than in the surrounding ecosystems.
  • Understand the reasons for changes in the density, behaviour and feeding patterns of populations of prey and predator vertebrates in the environs of the motorway compared to the matrix ecosystem.
  • Develop new intelligent systems for monitoring wildlife crossings based on safety systems.
  • Assess the severity of the wildlife-vehicle collision risk for predators that approach the road in search of prey.
  • Summarise the above information in a model that explains the relations of the fauna in the environs of the road and their relationships with the surrounding ecosystem.
  • Search for indicators that facilitate the assessment of fauna management in the road ecosystem and its environs.

Specific objectives (Vegetation):

  • Conduct observational and experimental studies in order to describe the role of small and medium herbivores in the dynamics of vegetation.
  • Ascertain the importance of topsoil stockpiling and subsequent spreading techniques for seed input via the seed bank, the organic matter content and colonization by herbaceous plants.
  • Study the importance of topsoil amendment for the metabolic nitrogen pathway through the observation of modulation in typical embankment-colonizing legume roots.
  • Contrast the litter decomposition rate in different species used on embankments in order to optimise the management of the planted vegetation community and minimize road maintenance costs by means of practices such as regular mowing which can reduce the fire hazard.
  • Evaluate the potential use of surplus farm manure in the revegetation of road embankments.