Biodiversity refers to the variety of species and habitats found at a site. The Zurich Airport Group is helping to conserve and promote this diversity at its various locations.
The Zurich Airport Group protects the ecological value of the green spaces at its airports and helps to conserve and promote 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 the central plateau.
The Zurich Airport Group also promotes biodiversity at its airports abroad. All three of its majority-owned Brazilian airports are near the coast and therefore adjacent to sensitive ecosystems. At its two airports in Chile, the airfields along with 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 Flughafen Zürich AG 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 extensive tracts of the airport grounds as high-grass meadows is in fact in the interests of both airfield operations and nature conservation.
Careful management and maintenance of large green spaces helps to maintain and even increase biodiversity 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, the company 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.
Preserving biodiversity is important in Brazil too. In Macaé, where a new runway that will also cover green areas is planned, the ecological value of the habitats will be determined as part of the approval process so an appropriate offset can then be put in place elsewhere.
Construction of the new airport in Noida in India impacts both agricultural land and settlement areas. The surrounding area includes nature conservation areas, although these are not within the actual project perimeter itself. A condition of the planning approval stipulated that many of the existing trees on the land had to be retained or, where ones were felled, they were to be offset by extensive reforesting. A total of over 1800 trees made up of 68 different species were replanted during the reporting year. Only 178 trees were mandatory, the rest were planted voluntarily. The company is obliged to ensure that planting and reforestation are successful and to rectify any problems that arise.
For the construction phase that had started in India during the previous year, a comprehensive monitoring programme which covered the aspects of soil, drinking water, wastewater, air quality and noise was put in place. Monitoring commenced in September 2022, with monthly reports documenting the associated impacts so countermeasures can be taken quickly if necessary. The company contracted to carry out the building work is in turn obliged to take the steps necessary to prevent harm to the natural environment.
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.