Growing urbanization is driving the need for major transport and utility infrastructure development and maintenance with increasing competition for land with high development value. At the same time, existing infrastructure is creaking under the strain of demand, downward operational cost pressure and damaging effects of climate change. This puts at risk the satisfaction of end users and shareholder value.
Adoption of mitigation approaches based on natural capital valuation can help to minimize land take and expedite planning consents for new urban infrastructure. This works by, for example, monetizing the value of each ecosystem service according to habitat types (e.g.: grasslands, woodland, wasteland, ponds, trees and shrubs) so that the net effect on biodiversity and ecosystem function of the development can be evaluated.
Intelligent management of natural capital can also deliver substantial benefits for management of existing infrastructure. For example, rail networks are increasingly at risk from infrastructure damage and service disruption resulting from extreme flooding events. Arcadis is working with rail companies to develop vegetation management solutions that improve operational resiliency, reduce operating costs and ensure no net loss of biodiversity.
In the case of Transport for London’s (TfL) proposed Silvertown Tunnel under the River Thames, Arcadis was able to demonstrate a net gain in biodiversity while maintaining, or enhancing ecosystem functions. No Net Less (NNL) has been achieved through a combination of onsite mitigation and off site compensation using natural capital valuation. This reduces project costs by avoiding the need to acquire expensive, adjoining land with complex ownership issues. Stakeholder expectations have been managed and regulatory obligations met, both critical requirements to secure the necessary planning approval.
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