The world has become much smaller due to better communication and transportation infrastructure. Roads crisscross across the globe in a dense network. However, this comes at a high price and severely the ecology of the planet. The surface of the Earth is now splintered into more than 600,000 fragments. Some of these fragments are smaller than one square kilometre. This significantly reduces the ability of ecosystems to recover from the damage caused by human activities. This fact has been revealed in a recent study for making a global map of roadless areas.
Roads have made humans to access almost every region. However, this accessibility comes at a very high cost. In spite of measures to conserve the flora and the fauna of the vast world tracts of valuable roadless areas still remain unprotected.
Scientists affiliated with the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development in Germany prepared a database about 36 million kilometres of metalled roads across the landscapes of the Earth. These roads have divided the globe into more than 600,000 pieces which are not affected by the roads directly.
The researchers were surprised to find that of the remaining roadless areas only seven percent are larger than 100 square kilometres. The biggest patches are located in the Tundra and Taiga forests of North America and Eurasia. It also includes tropical forests of Africa, South America and South East Asia. Of these only, nine percent of these areas are undisturbed by roads and are protected.
Roads which crisscross the globe hinder the natural gene flow in the animal population. It also helps in the quickfire like the spread of pests and diseases. It also increases soil erosion and contamination of rivers and wetlands.
The proliferation of roads has made exploitation of natural resources from hitherto secure ecologically sensitive locations. It also opens opportunities for illegal logging, poaching and deforestation. Construction of roads leads to greater human activities, resulting in the need for increased proliferation of infrastructures like housing, power plants and more roads. It is a vicious cycle which further denudes the ecology.