Safe and reliable highways and roads are an essential component to a city’s infrastructure, everyone depends on the transportation system to get to work, and carry out his or her social lives (Arnold, 2013). From a geographic standpoint, major highways are essential for urban transportation and providing easy connections from point A to point B. From an environmental standpoint, the expansions and maintenance of these highways help to reduce traffic congestion, commuting time, and air pollution (Filion & Kramer, 2011). However, highway critics have long argued that building new roads, or expanding existing ones to reduce traffic is an almost useless exercise (Kang et al. 2006). There is no accounting for traffic, which is diverted down other roads, and ‘induced’ travel from construction (Kang et al., 2006). Also some concerns arise regarding the disruption of local wildlife and species’ habitats during the lengthy and sometimes ongoing nature of the construction of highways (Awasthi et al., 2011). In addition to the impacts of new roads on designated sites, there are the continuing and worsening environmental impacts of existing roads on wildlife (Sherwood, 2003).
Highways influence adjacent habitat quality up to several kilometers from the road surface, and as a result, road effects can saturate a landscape even at relatively low road densities (Frair et al. 2008). For example, it has been noted that reductions in species abundance can correlate to increases in road density for a variety of species (Frair et al. 2008). Anthropogenic induced disruptions such as habitat loss and pollution are major threats to wildlife health and biodiversity (Patterson, 2010). Even the effects of man-made noise are known to have severe negative impacts on wildlife particularly on marine wildlife (Myrberg, 1990). Understanding the specific needs of wildlife populations is key to preventing local or global extinctions, rehabilitating populations and restoring habitat (Patterson, 2010).
Many major metropolitan Canadian cities are currently undergoing a steady increase in population (Metro Vancouver, 2014). This will produce increased activity on roads and highways, and therefore an increase in maintenance and construction operations to meet the growing demands for quicker and safer transportation routes. The Metro Vancouver region hosts many different wildlife species including various migratory birds, aquatic, and amphibious species (Metro Vancouver, 2014). This analysis will include the effects that highway construction and bridge expansion has on species located in a chosen target area around Highway 1 near the Fraser River in B.C., Canada. A focus of the analysis will be placed on various types of salmon that use the river for spawning, foraging and migration purposes. Knowledge of critical shifts in population responses to growing road networks is necessary to ensure species persistence and functional ecosystems in an increasingly human-dominated world (Frair et al., 2008). With the increase in construction operations, it is imperative that the health of the surrounding wildlife and habitats is kept under consideration especially when expanding highways into areas with higher populations of wildlife (Teixeira de Almeida et al., 2015).
This project’s target area of analysis is a stretch of Highway 1 and Port Mann Bridge in the Metro Vancouver region, B.C., Canada located from just south of Steelworkers Bridge to Langley, B.C. The expected construction on Highway 1 and Port Mann Bridge, which proposes to significantly widen the highway, may have severe impacts on the surrounding regional parks and its hosted wildlife, not to mention the wildlife inhabiting the numerous smaller parks and the Fraser River. Applying a GIS approach to the aforementioned wildlife problem is crucial to assessing the impacts that the Metro Vancouver Port Mann Bridge/Highway 1 expansion project may have on the surrounding area. The application of a GIS analysis to conservation initiatives within the target area is not a new endeavor, literature containing information specifically on wildlife affected by highway construction in our chosen study area is not in abundance, and therefore this presents a major research gap. GIS analysis will allow for the consideration of current and historical wildlife population and linkages, habitat/nesting density and ranges, anthropogenic land-use, environmental barriers, and progress of management activities (Patterson, 2010). Reviewing literature will reveal key concerns regarding human disrupted wildlife and habitats due to road/highway/bridge construction, and the use of GIS analysis can be applied to determine the overall severity of the impact. Understanding the specific needs of wildlife populations is key to preventing local or global extinctions, rehabilitating populations and restoring habitat (Patterson, 2010).
Purpose of Research
The purpose of this research is to assess the environmental and habitat impacts resulting from the Port Mann Bridge/Highway 1 expansion project in Vancouver through the use of GIS analysis.