How did you find out about canopy bridges, and when did you start working with them?
I started working with canopy bridges as a post-doc at the Smithsonian. Leading a project in which the use of canopy bridges by arboreal animals was being tested in an area where a gas pipeline was being built. They wanted to understand if the animals would use natural bridges (branches) if they were left intact when the duct was built. We entered the study area before the construction of the pipeline. We identified branches that would interconnect after the opening of the right of way that would not be cut. Later, when the right of way was opened, we installed camera traps on the natural bridges to see if the fauna used them, and we saw that they clearly used them.
What are canopy bridges used for and what species use them?
They serve to mitigate the fragmentation impact that linear infrastructure creates. They are made for arboreal species that are not used to using the ground to cross.
How can construction companies relate to your work? Are they interested?
In several of the projects that I have worked on, there are industrial camps. In these camps, the workers are the ones who make daily decisions about biodiversity. For that reason, we take every opportunity we have to illustrate the importance of your decisions and the good impacts you could have in terms of the survival of biodiversity with our actions. For example, I showed them that by leaving canopy connectivity through trees with interconnecting branches above the right-of-way, they were leaving roads for tree-dwelling animals. I always shared photos of the camera traps so that they could see the success of their actions.
The pandemic opened the opportunity to share information on canopy bridges in webinars. Did virtuality help to better understand canopy bridges globally?
In the second year of the pandemic, we hosted a webinar on canopy bridging with the American Society of Primatologists and Earth Optimism from the Smithsonian Institution. We saw that there was a lot of interest in the subject (there were 540 registrants) but we also saw that there is little information in the literature on the subject. For this reason, we decided to organize a Special Issue on the subject with Folia Primatologica. The Special Issue was a great success with 23 case studies from 14 countries and 136 co-authors.
What did you get out of these webinars?
We saw that there is a lot of interest in the subject but that there have not been many publications and that we are not learning from each other. So we created the Special Issue and hope to create more opportunities for conservation practitioners in the future.
What was the audience that attended the webinars?
There were 540 registrants from 53 countries, with 130 attending the live webinar.
When preparing the Special Issue, what were the challenges?
Many authors were publishing for the first time, so we tried to support these authors to ensure that their studies got out. Overall it was a super positive experience. I loved working with the four other editors (all women!) and with the authors, who were very professional and receptive to our suggestions and corrections.
What lessons did you learn when preparing the Special Issue?
Creating a special issue takes time. You have to be patient with the process. Also, if one wants it to be successful, it is good to offer support to authors and try to understand their challenges in order to support them.
What do you think are the next steps regarding canopy bridges at the Latin American level?
We are currently working on a review paper on the subject that is revealing many publications that will surely be of interest to practitioners and researchers. We are looking for a place to house them so that they are accessible to practitioners who do not always have access to all the literature. A Best Practice Guidelines is also being developed with the IUCN PSG for canopy bridging for primates. Some countries are developing legislation for canopy bridges over linear infrastructure, which will be very important as well.
What advice would you share with colleagues who are dedicated to issues related to road ecology?
It is important to understand a problem well before creating solutions so that the solutions are successful and so that resources are not wasted. Also, it’s good to keep in mind that sometimes a simple solution can have big impacts. Some bridges are single line, but are used by multiple species.
Interview Bibiana Terra Dasoler
Relationship of the accumulation areas of wildlife collisions with respect to the works of road art in the La Pintada Concession, Antioquia – Colombia.