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Roads shatter Earth's surface into 600,000 fragments reducing ability of ecosystems to function effectively: Study

A new study has found that the Earth's surface is shattered by roads into over 600,000 fragments, more than half of which are smaller that one square kilometre.

By Zee Media Bureau | Updated: Dec 20, 2016, 08:23 AM IST
Roads shatter Earth's surface into 600,000 fragments reducing ability of ecosystems to function effectively: Study
(Image for representational purposes only)

Berlin: A new study has found that the Earth's surface is shattered by roads into over 600,000 fragments, more than half of which are smaller that one square kilometre.

This, the study says, severely reduces the ability of ecosystems to function effectively.

As per the researchers, despite substantial efforts to conserve the world's natural heritage, large tracts of valuable roadless areas remain unprotected.

The researchers from the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development in Germany used a dataset of 36 million kilometres of roads across the landscapes of the earth. They are dividing them into more than 600,000 pieces that are not directly affected by roads.

Of these remaining roadless areas only seven percent are larger than 100 square kilometres. The largest tracts are to be found in the tundra and the boreal forests of North America and Eurasia, as well as some tropical areas of Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, PTI reported.

Only nine per cent of these areas undisturbed by roads are protected.

Roads introduce many problems to nature. For instance, they interrupt gene flow in animal populations, facilitate the spread of pests and diseases, and increase soil erosion and the contamination of rivers and wetlands.

Then there is the free movement of people made possible by road development in previously remote areas, which has opened these areas up to severe problems such as illegal logging, poaching and deforestation.

Most importantly, roads trigger the construction of further roads and the subsequent conversion of natural landscapes, a phenomenon the study labels "contagious development."

In many cases they represent remaining tracks of extensive functional ecosystems, and are of key significance to ecological processes, such as regulating the hydrological cycle and the climate," said Ibisch.

The researchers used a large data base generated through crowd-sourcing platform to produce a global map for roadless.

(With PTI inputs)