Aging infrastructure creates opportunities for cost-efficient restoration of aquatic ecosystem connectivity.

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Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering


A hallmark of industrialization is the construction of dams for water management and roads for transportation, leading to fragmentation of aquatic ecosystems. Many nations are striving to address both maintenance backlogs and mitigation of environmental impacts as their infrastructure ages. Here, we test whether accounting for road repair needs could offer opportunities to boost conservation efficiency by piggybacking connectivity restoration projects on infrastructure maintenance. Using optimization models to align fish passage restoration sites with likely road repair priorities, we find potential increases in conservation return-on-investment ranging from 17% to 25%. Importantly, these gains occur without compromising infrastructure or conservation priorities; simply communicating openly about objectives and candidate sites enables greater accomplishment at current funding levels. Society embraces both reliable roads and thriving fisheries, so overcoming this coordination challenge should be feasible. Given deferred maintenance crises for many types of infrastructure, there could be widespread opportunities to enhance the cost effectiveness of conservation investments by coordinating with infrastructure renewal efforts.

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© 2018 by the Ecological Society of America. Publisher’s version of record:

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Ecological applications : a publication of the Ecological Society of America