Airports by their very nature cover large areas of land and create a habitat which is either hostile to wildlife or a monoculture (e.g. grassland). The areas around airports can, however often be of considerable ecological value particularly if the airport is located in a ‘green belt’ surrounding a major urban conurbation, as is often the case. The ability of an airport to extend its boundaries or even build upon parts of its own land can be restricted by the value of the habitats threatened. This problem is particularly acute in parts ofEuropewhere sites protected by national or international convention have prevented or restricted airport development. The same has also been true in theUSand elsewhere in the world. Given the commitments made at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to protect biodiversity, such constraints are very likely to become more apparent in the future, even in less developed countries.
When estimating the potential capacity of an airport it is necessary to take account of not only the geographical constraints to future infrastructure development but also, in some locations, the ecological constraints posed by sensitive habitats in the surrounding area.
Mitigation of damage caused to such sites is sometimes possible however this is very costly (e.g. 10% of the total cost of a development project) and can, if not properly designed, attract birds to the vicinity of the airport thereby creating a bird hazard to aircraft.
CATE has worked with Dublin, Heathrow, Manchester and Stansted Airports to deliver sustainable solutions that both mitigate or compensate for habitat losses but without increasing the local bird hazard.