International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB) 2013

Biennial meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology, Baltimore, USA

Visit also the SCB Europe Section blog for news from ICCB2013:

Representatives of the Society for Conservation Biology - Europe Section participated in a symposium on ‘roadless areas’ as important target areas for biodiversity conservation in Baltimore, USA. The symposium was part of the biennial International Congress for Conservation Biology 2013, celebrated at the Baltimore Convention Center, from 21 to 25 July, and was organized by Dominick de la Sala, president of the North American section of SCB. Further SCB sections represented were Australia, Latin America and Caribbean, Oceania, as well as the Marine section.


Nuria Selva and Pierre Ibisch, both members of the Policy Committee of the Europe Section, delivered papers on the European perspective on roadless areas and biodiversity and on a first assessment of the global roadless areas. The presentations were a result of an ongoing cooperation with Google and Kriton Arsenis, Member of the European Parliament. Collaborators of the Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management, namely Monika Hoffmann and Julia Sauermann, have been working hard on processing and analysing raw data provided by Google.

Majority of the speakers at the roadless areas symposium.

Kriton Arsenis contributed a video message to the symposium, and once more proved that worldwide he is the leading politician striving for a better conservation of roadless areas. Rebecca Moore, presented the contribution by Google to the project. At Google, Rebecca conceived and leads the Google Earth Outreach program, and initiated and leads the development of Google Earth Engine.


The talk given by Nuria, co-authored by members of the European SCB Policy Committee, Kriton Arsenis and Google staff, summarized conceptual findings highlighting the opportunities for embracing roadless areas conservation in Europe, and also presented recently published results (index for mapping road impacts; publication in Landscape ecology; state of roadless areas conservation in Europe).


Pierre’s paper, also co-authored by members of the European SCB Policy Committee, Kriton Arsenis and Google staff, presented new results to be published in the near future. For the first time, roadless areas are assessed on all continents. Among others, coverage of functional ecosystems, biomes and protected areas were analysed. Less than 4% of the roadless areas are protected by strict reserves, such as wilderness areas or national parks (IUCN categories I + II); best coverage has been achieved in North America.

Dominick de la Sala, president of the North American section of SCB and organizer of the symposium, with Nuria Selva and Pierre Ibisch.

Roadless areas: working towards a comprehensive global assessment

Pierre L. Ibisch1, Monika Hoffmann, Julia Sauermann, Eric Engle, Nuria Selva, Vassiliki Kati, Lisa Freudenberger, Rebecca Moore, Kriton Arsenis & Peter R. Hobson


1Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management, Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Alfred-Moeller-Str. 1, 16225 Eberswalde, Germany (


Tweeter summary


A Road Disturbance Index is generated for mapping and assessing the conservation and threat status of global roadless and low-traffic areas




A systematic approach to mapping and assessing the conservation status of roadless and low-traffic areas is generated by the creation of a Road Disturbance Index. This index takes into account various types of information on road fragmentation as well as traffic intensity and is designed to inform conservation planning and environmental policy making. The quality of the final mapping results is then tested against index measures for a range of proxy indicators not directly related to road data, such as population density or presence of cities. The spatial distribution of the identified roadless areas is assessed according to ecosystem functionality, biodiversity patterns, protected area coverage and selected socioeconomic parameters. Socioeconomic and environmental information, such as population, economic growth or primary production, is used in a risk assessment describing the probability of roadless areas to be disturbed or eliminated by road development.


Roadless and low-traffic areas as conservation targets and wilderness surrogates- the European perspective

Nuria Selva1, Stefan Kreft, Vassiliki Kati, Rebecca Moore and Pierre L. Ibisch

1 Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish Academy of Sciences, Mickiewicza 33, 31-120 Kraków, Poland


Tweeter summary:

Roadless areas provide enormous benefits to biodiversity and societies; they shall be an important focus of conservation efforts


A main effect of roads is what we have termed “contagious development”: roads provide access to previously remote areas, thus opening them up for more roads and developments, and triggering land-use changes, resource extraction and human disturbance. In this context, keeping road-free the remaining large unfragmented patches of natural habitats is of crucial importance for conservation. Roadless and low-traffic areas represent relatively undisturbed natural habitats and functioning ecosystems. They contribute to the preservation of native biodiversity, increase landscape connectivity, act as barrier against pests and invasions, and render many ecosystem services. They get special relevance in the context of climate change because their higher resilience and buffering capacity. In Europe, roadless areas have become a rare element of the landscape. An analysis of conservation legislation in Europe illustrates that although most laws aimed at protecting targets which are inherent to fragmentation, like connectivity, ecosystem processes, or integrity, roadless areas are widely neglected. In Germany, most low-traffic and roadless areas (75%) lie outside the Natura 2000 network, while in Greece less than 3% of the roadless areas are protected as Natura 2000 site. Recent initiatives include the Report on Wilderness by the European Parliament, the European Union Strategy on Green Infrastructure or the Federal Defragmentation Programme in Germany.