Biodiversity refers to the variety of species and habitats found at a site. The Zurich Airport Group is helping to preserve this variety.
The Zurich Airport Group protects the ecological value of the green spaces at its airports and helps to preserve biodiversity.
As Zurich Airport was originally built in the middle of reed meadows, its perimeter still encompasses extensive areas that are of especially high ecological value. Of the total 953 hectares within its perimeter, around half is green space. Thanks to the airport fence, a mosaic of different habitats provides animals and plants – in some cases rare ones – with a home where they can be largely undisturbed. A total of 74 hectares are designated nature conservation areas, including wetlands of national importance. The company aims to preserve these habitats within the airport perimeter, especially since they are of a nature and quality that has become something of a rarity elsewhere in central Switzerland.
The Zurich Airport Group also promotes biodiversity at its airports abroad. All three of the Brazilian airports it controls are near the coast and therefore adjacent to sensitive ecosystems. At its two airports in Chile on the other hand, the airfields and consequently their development and maintenance are in the hands of the authorities.
As well as safety and operational considerations, international regulations for airports also include specific stipulations or recommendations with regard to the maintenance and conservation of green spaces around airports. Together with nature conservation stipulations in local legislation, these form the framework for how the Zurich Airport Group manages green areas not used for aviation purposes.
At its Zurich site the company is doing everything necessary to preserve the ecological value of the protected areas within the airport perimeter and to meet the associated conservation goals defined by the authorities. The protected areas include wetlands with various habitats and wooded areas. Cultivation of large parts of the airport grounds as high-grass meadows is in fact in the interests of both airfield operations and nature conservation.
From the point of view of biodiversity, careful management and maintenance of these extensive green spaces increases their value over the years. When Flughafen Zürich AG plans to build on green areas, their ecological value is measured using recognised methods and then, as part of the construction project, it subsequently offsets this by compensatory measures of equal value elsewhere. It aims to replace such areas with high-quality habitats appropriate to the location wherever possible, ones considered a priority by the Confederation for example.
Owing to their location on the coast, and consequently close to sensitive wetlands, preserving biodiversity during construction projects is also important for the airports in Brazil. In Macaé, for example, plans for an additional runway would have involved losing parts of a mangrove forest. Abandoning these plans enabled this valuable ecosystem to be preserved.
Construction of the new airport in Noida in India impacts both agricultural land and settlement areas. The surrounding area includes various nature conservation areas, although these are not within the actual project perimeter itself. Construction of the airport will nevertheless have an impact on the ecosystems there. An environmental impact assessment that identified the animal species present was therefore used as the basis for drawing up a concept for their preservation. The concept is being implemented by the authorities. Also planned are the officially prescribed compensatory measures for the woodlands affected.
For the construction phase that commenced in October of the reporting year, a comprehensive monitoring programme was set up in India which covers the aspects of soil, drinking water, wastewater, air quality and noise. Monthly reports document the associated impacts so countermeasures can quickly be taken if necessary.
With its wooded areas, watercourses and large open spaces, Zurich Airport also attracts a large number of bird species. However, large birds and flocking birds in particular can present a safety risk for aircraft. Collisions between birds and aircraft (known as bird strikes) can have very serious consequences and so must be avoided at all costs.
Flughafen Zürich AG takes various steps to make the airfield less attractive to birds that pose a particular risk to safety in an effort to avoid potential collisions. One tactic is to cultivate most of the open areas as extensive high-grass meadows; this approach is also taken at the company’s airports in Brazil. This is both environmentally friendly and also helps to prevent bird strikes as the high grass makes it difficult for birds of prey to spot their prey on the ground. It also discourages flocking birds from settling there. Specific steps have also been taken to reduce the birds’ food supply – for instance weasels especially are encouraged because they compete with birds of prey in hunting small mammals.