Wilderness Policy

Border fencing threatens wildlife in Europe

A recent research by Linnell JDC, Trouwborst A, Boitani L, Kaczensky P, Huber D, Reljic S, et al. on the effect of emerging border security fencing on wildlife found that such measures against human immigration might lead to the end of the Transboundary Nature Conservation Paradigm in Europe and beyond.

The refugee crisis of 2015 in Europe has seen many countries rush to construct border security fencing to divert or control the flow of people. This follows a trend of border fence construction across Eurasia during the post-9/11 era. The rapid erection of hundreds of kilometres of border security fences on both the external and internal borders of the EU was one of many responses to the perceived challenges associated with these refugees (Fig 1; Box 1). These fences were erected as emergency measures with no environmental impact assessments concerning their design or placement.

This development has gone largely unnoticed by conservation biologists during an era in which, ironically, transboundary cooperation has emerged as a conservation paradigm. These fences represent a threat to wildlife because they can cause mortality, obstruct access to seasonally important resources, and reduce effective population size. Conservationists were quick to join those already protesting against these fences on humanitarian grounds, and images of red deer (Cervus elaphus) dying after becoming entangled in the coils of wire made media headlines in the region. The result has forced us to realise that the transboundary paradigm as we know it is gravely threatened.

The border security fence being constructed along the border between Slovenia (SLO) and Croatia (HR) separates all three large carnivore (LC) species in Slovenia from the core population areas in the Dinaric Mountains, impacting their long-term viability, severing the Natura 2000 network, and decreasing the potential for natural recolonization of the Alps.

The authors developed a set of recommendations to mitigate the negative impact of border fences.

border fences threathen wildlife

This article is based on Linnell JDC, Trouwborst A, Boitani L, Kaczensky P, Huber D, Reljic S, et al. (2016) Border Security Fencing and Wildlife: The End of the Transboundary Paradigm in Eurasia? PLoS Biol 14(6): e1002483. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002483, which is available at http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1002483

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