Modelling in the Context of an Environmental Mobilisation: A Graph-Based Approach for Assessing the Landscape Ecological Impacts of a Highway Project

Marc Bourgeois 1  and Yohan Sahraoui 2 , 3
  • 1 French National Centre for Scientific Research, University Lyon 3 Jean Moulin, Lyon, France
  • 2 French National Centre for Scientific Research, University Paris, 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, France
  • 3 Integrative and Theoretical Ecology Group, LabEx COTE, University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France


The construction of highways leads to several environmental and landscape impacts, including the fragmentation of natural habitats for many animal species. Highway projects are therefore generally accompanied by mobilisations from the inhabitants of the areas concerned and environmental associations. This work aims to model the potential impacts of a highway project in France on ecological networks and to study the reception of the results by the opponents of this project. We have adopted a three-step approach. First, a land-cover map of the study area was produced at a fine scale of 10 m resolution. Second, we developed a multi-species approach by defining fifteen species groups representative of different habitats of our study area. Third, the design of landscape graphs and the resulting calculation of connectivity metrics allowed mapping the impact of the highway on multi-species ecological connectivity. Reflexive feedback from comments on these results by the public during a mobilisation day against the highway project allows assessment of the relevance of such a modelling approach in this context.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Alberti, M. (2005). The effects of urban patterns on ecosystem function. International Regional Science Review, 28, 168–192. DOI: 10.1177/0160017605275160.

  • Angelsen, A. & Kaimowitz D. (1999). Rethinking the causes of deforestation : Lessons from economic models. World Bank Research Observer, 14, 73–98. DOI: 10.1093/wbro/14.1.73.

  • Bourgeois, M., Cossart, É. & Fressard M. (2018). Mesurer et spatialiser la connectivité pour modéliser les changements des systèmes environnementaux. Approches comparées en écologie du paysage et en géomorphologie. Géomorphologie Relief Processus Environnement, 23, 289–308. DOI: 10.4000/geomorphologie.11895.

  • Calabrese, J.M. & Fagan W.F. (2004). A comparison-shopper’s guide to connectivity metrics. Frontier Ecology Environment, 2, 529–536. DOI: 10.2307/3868383.

  • Carr, L.W., Fahrig, L. & Pope S.E. (2002). Impacts of landscape transformation by roads. In K.J. Gutzwiller (Ed.), Applying landscape ecology in biological conservation (pp. 225−243). New-York: Springer-Verlaag.

  • Clauzel, C., Girardet, X. & Foltête J.-C. (2013). Impact assessment of a high-speed railway line on species distribution: application to the European tree frog (Hyla arborea) in Franche-Comté. J. Environ. Manag., 127, 125–134. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.04.018.

  • Coffin, A.W. (2007). From roadkill to road ecology : A review of the ecological effects of roads. Journal of Transport Geography, 15, 396–406. DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2006.11.006.

  • Cushman, S.A. (2006). Effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on amphibians : A review and prospectus. Biol. Conserv., 128, 231–240. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2005.09.031.

  • Fahrig, L. (2003). Effects of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst., 34, 487–515. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.34.011802.132419.

  • Fahrig, L. & Rytwinski T. (2009). Effects of roads and traffic on wildlife populations and landscape function effects of roads on animal abundance: an empirical review and synthesis. Ecol. Soc., 14, 21. DOI: 10.5751/es-02815-140121.

  • Foltête, J.-C., Clauzel, C. & Vuidel G. (2012). A software tool dedicated to the modelling of landscape networks. Environmental Modelling and Software, 38, 316–327. DOI: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2012.07.002.

  • Foltête, J.-C., Girardet, X. & Clauzel C. (2014). A methodological framework for the use of landscape graphs in land-use planning. Landsc. Urban Plann., 124, 140–150. DOI: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2013.12.012.

  • Forman, R.T.T. & Alexander L.E. (1998). Roads and their major ecological effects. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst., 29, 207–231. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.29.1.207.

  • Forman, R.T.T., Sperling, D., Bissonette, J.A., Clevenger, A.P., Cutshall, C.D., Dale, V.H., Fahrig, L., France, R., Goldman, C.R., Heanue, K., Jones, J.A., Swanson, F.J., Turrentine, T. & Winter T.C. (2003). Road ecology: Science and solutions. Washington: Island Press.

  • Fu, W., Liu, S., Degloria, S.D., Dong, S. & Beazley R. (2010). Characterizing the ‘fragmentation–barrier’ effect of road networks on landscape connectivity: A case study in Xishuangbanna, Southwest China. Landsc. Urban Plann., 95, 122–129. DOI: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2009.12.009.

  • Galpern, P., Manseau, M. & Fall A. (2011). Patch-based graphs of landscape connectivity: A guide to construction, analysis and application for conservation. Biol. Conserv., 144, 44–55. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2010.09.002.

  • Girardet, X., Foltête, J.-C. & Clauzel C. (2013). Designing a graph-based approach to landscape ecological assessment of linear infrastructures. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 42, 10–17. DOI: 10.1016/j.eiar.2013.03.004.

  • Gurrutxaga, M., Lozano, P.J. & Del Barrio G. (2010). Assessing highway permeability for the restoration of landscape connectivity between protected areas in the Basque Country, Northern Spain. Landscape Research, 35, 529–550. DOI: 10.1080/01426397.2010.504915.

  • Gurrutxaga, M., Rubio, L. & Saura S. (2011). Key connectors in protected forest area networks and the impact of highways: A transnational case study from the Cantabrian Range to the Western Alps (SW Europe). Landsc. Urban Plann., 101, 310–320. DOI: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2011.02.036.

  • Hirzel, A.H. & Le Lay G. (2008). Habitat suitability modelling and niche theory. Journal of Applied Ecology, 45, 1372–1381. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01524.x.

  • Holderegger, R. & Di Giulio M. (2010). The genetic effects of roads: A review of empirical evidence. Basic and Applied Ecology, 11, 522–531. DOI: 10.1016/j.baae.2010.06.006.

  • Inglada, J., Vincent, A., Arias, M., Tardy, B., Morin, D. & Rodes I. (2017). Operational high resolution land cover map production at the country scale using satellite image time series. Remote Sensing, 9, 95. DOI: 10.3390/rs9010095.

  • Izakovičová, Z. & Świąder M. (2017). Building ecological networks in Slovakia and Poland. Ekológia (Bratislava), 36(4), 302−322. DOI: 10.1515/eko-2017-0025.

  • Jaarsma, C.F., van Langeve, F. & Beunen R. (2013). Landscape ecology and Rural roads: traffic calming for improving both landscape and wildlife? Ekológia (Bratislava), 32(4), 352−360. DOI: 10.2478/eko-2013-0032.

  • Lindenmayer, D.B., Margules, C.R. & Botkin D.B. (2000). Indicators of biodiversity for ecologically sustainable forest management. Conserv. Biol., 14, 941–950. DOI: 10.1046/j.1523-1739.2000.98533.x.

  • Marsh, D.M., Page, R.B., Hanlon, T.J., Corritone, R., Little, E.C., Seifert, D.E. & Cabe P.R. (2008). Effects of roads on patterns of genetic differentiation in red-backed salamanders, Plethodon cinereus. Conservation Genetics, 9, 603–613. DOI: 10.1007/s10592-007-9377-0.

  • Marull, J. & Mallarach J.M. (2005). A GIS methodology for assessing ecological connectivity: application to the Barcelona Metropolitan Area. Landsc. Urban Plann., 71, 243–262. DOI: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2004.03.007.

  • Mimet, A., Clauzel, C. & Foltête J.-C. (2016). Locating wildlife crossings for multispecies connectivity across linear infrastructures. Landsc. Ecol., 31, 1955–1973. DOI: 10.1007/s10980-016-0373-y.

  • Rashidi, M., Chamani, A. & Moshtaghi M. (2019). The influence of transport infrastructure development on bird diversity and abundance. Ekológia (Bratislava), 38(2), 178−188. DOI: 10.2478/eko-2019-0014.

  • Rayfield, B., Fortin, M.-J. & Fall A. (2011). Connectivity for conservation: a framework to classify network measures. Ecology, 92, 847–858. DOI: 10.1890/09-2190.1.

  • Reijnen, R. & Foppen R.P.B. (2006). Impact of road traffic on breeding bird populations. In J. Davenport & J.L. Davenport (Eds.), The ecology of transportation: Managing mobility for the environment (pp. 255−274). Dordrecht: Springer.

  • Roedenbeck, I.A. & Voser P. (2008). Effects of roads on spatial distribution, abundance and mortality of brown hare (Lepus europaeus) in Switzerland. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 54, 425–437. DOI: 10.1007/s10344-007-0166-3.

  • Sahraoui, Y., Foltête, J.-C. & Clauzel C. (2017). A multi-species approach for assessing the impact of land-cover changes on landscape connectivity. Landsc. Ecol., 32, 1819–1835. DOI: 10.1007/s10980-017-0551-6.

  • Saura, S., Estreguil, C., Mouton, C. & Rodriguez-Freire M. (2011). Network analysis to assess landscape connectivity trends: Application to European forests (1990−2000). Ecol. Indic., 11, 407−416. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2010.06.011.

  • Tannier, C., Foltête, J.-C. & Girardet X. (2012). Assessing the capacity of different urban forms to preserve the connectivity of ecological habitats. Landsc. Urban Plann., 105, 128–139. DOI: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2011.12.008.

  • Tannier, C., Bourgeois, M., Houot, H. & Foltête J.-C. (2016). Impact of urban developments on the functional connectivity of forested habitats: A joint contribution of advanced urban models and landscape graphs. Land Use Policy, 52, 76–91. DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.12.002.

  • Taylor, P.D., Fahrig, L., Henein, K. & Merriam G. (1993). Connectivity is a vital element of landscape structure. Oikos, 68, 571–573. DOI: 10.2307/3544927.

  • Theobald, D.M., Miller, J.R. & Hobbs N.T. (1997). Estimating the cumulative effects of development on wildlife habitat. Landsc. Urban Plann., 39, 25–36. DOI: 10.1016/S0169-2046(97)00041-8.

  • Urban, D.L., Minor, E.S., Treml, E.A. & Schick R.S. (2009). Graph models of habitat mosaics. Ecol. Lett., 12, 260–273. DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01271.x.

  • Vasas, V., Magura, T., Jordán, F. & Tóthmérész B. (2009). Graph theory in action: evaluating planned highway tracks based on connectivity measures. Landsc. Ecol., 24, 581–586. DOI: 10.1007/s10980-009-9346-8.

  • Verbeylen, G., De Bruyn, L., Adriaensen, F. & Matthysen E. (2003). Does matrix resistance influence Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris L. 1758) distribution in an urban landscape? Landsc. Ecol., 18, 791–805. DOI: 10.1023/B: LAND.0000014492.50765.05.

  • Vogt, P., Riitters, K.H., Estreguil, C., Kozak, J., Wade, T.G. & Wickham J.D. (2007). Mapping spatial patterns with morphological image processing. Landsc. Ecol., 22, 171–177. DOI: 10.1007/s10980-006-9013-2.


Journal + Issues