Road Ecology Interview: Marcello Guerreiro

Image Credit: Marcello Guerreiro

Written by Marcello Guerreiro

Marcello Guerreiro is a Forestry Engineer, with a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering and the Environment, he works as head of the Environmental Department at the Arteris Fluminense Concessionaire, on BR-101/RJ, the most important highway in the State of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) . Arteris specializes in highway management, it is responsible for the management of five federal and two state highways; which makes it one of the most important investors in road concessions in Brazil, representing more than 70% of investments in road infrastructure.

  1. How did the formation of the ecoduct begin? How was it financed?

In 2013, when I was hired, the company I work for was at an impasse in relation to compliance with the conditions defined in the environmental licenses, which are issued by the Brazilian entities responsible for the environmental licensing of projects, especially those related with the Conservation Units and the preservation of the golden lion tamarin, an endangered species endemic to the region. My first actions consisted of understanding the demands of the conservation units – I am currently part of the Councils of these units – and understanding the legal issues related to the concession contract and the legal obligations related to environmental compensation. My objective was to convey to the engineers the environmental impact of the roads on wildlife and, in this way, with the support of the group of engineers and specialists, develop economically viable and efficient solutions. All the planning consisted of finding the midpoint between the demands not foreseen in the contract and the full compliance with the legal requirements. At that time, I established a network of researchers and consultants on the subject to develop an action plan and define the best solutions.

  1. Which species was this ecoduct built for?

The construction of mitigation measures is established to attend to specific species or key species; but, in our projects, the definition of the types of wildlife crossings were created for Species Groups: we include structures in wetlands (bridge wildlife crossings); structures for arboreal animals here we include the golden lion tamarin and the collared sloth; underground structures; and the vegetated viaduct that seeks to serve the largest number of groups of species. In all land structures fences were installed to protect fauna in an extension of 500 meters on each side of the entrances of the passes.

  1. How are the ecoducts monitored (paths, camera traps, capture…)?

It is important to mention that in BR 101/RJ we implemented a complex of structures to mitigate the impact of highways on wildlife. A total10 overpasses, 9 bridges (wet areas), 17 underpasses, 1 vegetated viaduct, all this in 72 km of highway. The monitoring strategy uses camera traps installed at the entrances and exits of wildlife crossings in their immediate surroundings and in forest fragments distributed throughout the landscape. In these fragments, they are installed between the edges, inside the fragments (Core Zone) and at the confluence with different types of land use and occupation. Our monitoring strategy is directly related to our initial hypotheses and the entire experimental design aims to answer questions related to cost-benefit analysis, comparative efficiency and effectiveness of mitigation measures.

  1. Which species use the ecoduct more and which less? and how often do they do it?

Bearing in mind that we have a wide variety of passages installed in the BR101/R, I will distribute the data for each type of structure. Regarding the lower structures, the animals that used it the most were the “near threatened” otter (Lontra longicaudis), the ferret (Galictis cuja), the South American raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus) and the small armadillo (Dasypus septemcinctus), the coati (Nasua nasua), the capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) and the tegu lizard (Salvator merianae). In the upper passes, the marmoset (Callithrix sp.), the golden lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) (endangered and endemic species), the black-eared possum (Didelphis aurita), the hedgehog (Coendou spinosus), the marsupials of the order Didelphimorphia and the sloth (Bradypus torquatus). The Vegetated Viaduct rescued the connectivity of the short-eared fox ( Cerdocyon sp.), the seriema (Cariama cristata), again the tegus lizards (Salvator merianae), the ferret (Galictis cuja), the paca (Cuniculus paca), the armadillo (Dasypus sp.) and the tamandua mirim (Tamandua tetradactyla).

  1. Are there published studies on the benefits of the ecoduct?

At the moment we have not published articles on the benefits of the vegetated viaduct. Some articles have been published on some press sites and institutional videos. On June 9, 2022, the first article on the mitigation measures complex of BR-101/RJ was presented: “A new path for the conservation of the golden lion tamarin?”, it has been successfully presented online and currently its publication in Animal Conservation is being studied in depth. The ID is ACV-06-22-LFF-156. In our planning we anticipate the appearance of two new publications by the end of this year and we have in mind a large number of articles and doctoral theses that will be based on the ongoing follow-up program.

  1. What is the importance of REET Brazil?

REET Brazil is one of the most important forums for the exchange of experiences, success stories and articles on the subject of road ecology. The diversity of actors and geographic regions of Brazil and the different institutions represented is one of the most important characteristics in my opinion. The exchange of ideas and different points of view of the different actors, from the managers of the highway concessionaires, the representatives of the inspection and control organisms, the researchers and scientists, the consultants and the students, allows REET Brazil to create an environment of rich and democratic debate that allows the construction of a public position of the institution in the face of the challenges faced by all these actors.

  1. What is the perception of road ecology in Brazil?

According to researchers from REET Brazil, the first studies published in Brazil related to the theme of road ecology were written in 1988 and 1996, more than three decades of relevance in Brazil. The pioneering researchers are Andreas Kindel, professor at the Department of Ecology at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, professor Cecilia Bueno, PhD in Geography from UFRJ, and consultant Ricardo Miranda Braga. In these three decades, the subject has been established in some Brazilian universities, research groups have been created in the universities, research centers linked to the ICMBIo (Inspection and Control Agency for Conservation Units) have been created, studies such as the Impact Reduction Plans (PRIM-IVT) and third sector organizations specialized in the conservation of key species. Currently, it is observed that the entire community is focused on the construction of protocols for the collection of data on deaths of wldlife on the road and at this time the attention is focused on the evaluation and construction of notebooks on mitigation measures and the evaluation of their relative efficiency and effectiveness and key decisions to define the most appropriate measures by taking into account the characteristics of the environment of the roads, the physical characteristics of the roads and the data on deaths of wildlife on the road, hotspots and ecological corridors .

  1. What is the perspective for the construction of ecologically sustainable highways with mitigation measures in Brazil?

By evaluating the entire highway network in Brazil, we can organize this immense challenge between the highways that are part of the federal and state concession program, in addition to the highways operated by public administration agencies and the municipal and inter-municipal highways that are not under concession. In this sense, there is an ongoing movement towards the creation of applications for obtaining data available to the population, charging for the application of monitoring programs and the integration of available databases mainly for the roads belonging to the concessions program. Another front refers to the monitoring of the efficiency of the mitigation measures implemented and their relative cost-benefit ratio with the ultimate goal of creating a notebook of mitigation measures, indicating the necessary conditions for their operation and their implementation costs to provide decision makers a tool that can guide the necessary mitigation measures for new highway concession programs and on other highways; In this way, the aim is to minimize the effects of the legal insecurity of the public-private partnership model currently in Brazil and to create an integrated program for evaluating the environmental performance of Brazilian highways. These measures require much work for their implementation.

  1. Is the existing legislation on the subject sufficient?

Brazil has some of the strongest environmental laws in the world. An evaluation of the follow-up programs of the legal requirements and obligations used for the diligence of corporations presents a total of 242 legal provisions and 534 required legal obligations. At the same time, at this time in Brazil, there is a need to modernize this legislative body to maintain rigidity regarding the protection of biodiversity and the minimization of environmental impacts, and thus streamline the environmental licensing process. Some obstacles to this modernization are the lack of integration of the public administration bodies that have an interface with the issue and the public confrontation between the ultra-conservatives and the defenders of the progress made so far. The specific mechanisms related to the evaluation of environmental impacts and the execution of environmental programs do not incorporate the advances of agile project methodologies; scientific advances related to monitoring, data analysis and new mitigation measures studied. I believe that the creation of public policies related to the minimization of the environmental impacts of highways and the proposal of a modern body of laws, norms and normative instructions are a way to align the development and the preservation of biodiversity.

  1. What is needed to minimize the impacts of roads?

One of the priority actions to minimize the environmental impacts of highways is the integration of all the actors involved in the administration, operation, inspection, environmental licensing, protection of biodiversity, researchers, consultants, companies and organized civil society, for the diagnosis protection of biodiversity on our roads. The preparation of impact minimization forecasts, together with the consolidation of the current state of methodologies, regulatory acts, techniques, environmental licensing processes, the efficiency and effectiveness of mitigation measures, their cost-benefit ratio, as well as the preparation of sectoral plans for the management and preservation of the fauna on our roads. With the creation of management committees and manuals of mitigation measures that link the costs of implementation and the monitoring of their effectiveness, with the exchange of information, methodologies, technical knowledge and the creation of public policies, with the transparency and availability of generated cost data. Along with the political order and the commitment of all those involved.

  1. Where should efforts be focused?

The establishment of simple measures, such as the fencing of drainage structures and bridge spans, would already provide significant results to mitigate the impact of roads on wildlife. It is important to bear in mind that roads are just one more element of the landscape and that after minimizing their barrier effects and the risk to wildlife, efforts must focus on the landscape and on the connection of forest fragments, as well as on the creation of ecological corridors and protection of habitats, minimizing the friction effect of the landscape matrix, which in tropical countries is mostly degraded pastures and agricultural areas.

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