CONNECT-HDL: Blue Green Infrastructure for Biodiversity Enrichment in Human-Dominated Landscapes

Funded by the Eawag-WSL Blue Green
Biodiversity (BGB) 2020-2021 Initiative (Project 9)

This project contributes to the Blue Green Biodiversity Research Initiative – an Eawag-WSL collaboration focusing on Biodiversity at the interface of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Humans have reshaped their environments at an unprecedented rate during the Anthropocene thereby decreasing biodiversity worldwide. Loss of habitat area, habitat quality and habitat fragmentation due to ever increasing urbanization and agricultural productivity has been linked to biodiversity loss. Measures such as Blue-Green Infrastructures (BGI) defined as instruments for green space provision, waterway protection and nature-inspired engineered infrastructures are emerging mitigation solutions. Quantitative tools are available for assessing biodiversity through functional connectivity and supporting the planning of BGIs in cities. Yet, our understanding of how human settlement patterns affect functional connectivity in spatial landscape contexts remains limited.

Connect-HDL focuses on the role of urban landscape connectivity on amphibian biodiversity. The Cantons of Aargau and Zürich, characterized by distinct human settlements patterns, are taken as case studies. The project aims to investigate how in human-dominated landscapes (HDL) we can enrich biodiversity through three research questions:

  1. What is the role of the urban form and blue-green infrastructures in facilitating functional connectivity across urban and agricultural landscapes?
  2. Can we use available spatial and remote sensing data to identify functional connectivity hotspots/coldspots and opportunities for BGI measures?
  3. Is it possible for strategically-planned urban environments to enrich wider landscape biodiversity?

Through the integration of the science of ecological assessment (WSL), urban BGI-planning (Eawag) and spatial modelling (Eawag & WSL) structural and functional connectivity are quantified across the study area. In this period of strong environmental change and biodiversity crisis, it is priority to maintain well-connected metapopulations using well-designed networks of Blue-Green Systems across HDL considering the wide diversity in life history and ecological traits exhibited by Amphibians.

The Approach

CONNECT-HDL seeks to integrate a well-known tool for assessing functional connectivity assessment known as Circuitscape and its underlying functionality with UrbanBEATS. Using outputs from UrbanBEATS of the urban environment and urban form, connectivity maps for different species can be generated and fed back into UrbanBEATS’ BGI planning modules. We are investigating ways in which this model integration can be done efficiently and for larger simulation areas.

Proposed modelling approach in CONNECT-HDL, integrating the well-known Circuit Analysis model Circuitscape with UrbanBEATS’ various planning modules to better plan green corridors for biodiversity enrichment.

The Team

The project is co-led across both the Eawag and WSL and features a collaborative team of environmental engineers and ecologists.

Max Maurer
Professor, Director
Urban Water Management (Eawag)
Janine Bolliger
Research Scientist
Swiss Federal Institute WSL
Peter M. Bach
Research Scientist
Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences
Giulia Donati
Postdoctoral Researcher
Urban Water Management (Eawag)

Other Team Members & Collaborators:

  • Achilleas Psomas (WSL)
  • Sven Eggimann (Empa)

Research Students:

  • Lucie Roth (MSc. – ETH Zurich)
  • Romain Cottet (MSc. – ETH Zurich)
  • Phillipe Lischer (MSc. – ETH Zurich)

Publications from the Project

Some publications from the project are currently in preparation. Stay tuned for updates…