The strips of nature along the side of transport infrastructure provide habitats for animals and plants. SBB is committed to protecting them.
Through its existing railway infrastructure, real estate and further planned construction projects, SBB contributes to the loss, qualitative degradation and fragmentation of natural habitats. This poses a threat to the native flora and fauna of Switzerland.
However, SBB also owns a green corridor of national importance for biodiversity in the form of railway embankments. Through these embankments, SBB provides valuable habitats with a high level of biodiversity and plays a key role in habitat connectivity. SBB will contribute to Switzerland’s ecological infrastructure by maintaining one fifth of its embankments in a near-natural state by 2030 and ensuring the connectivity of animal habitats along and across the railway lines at various locations. The company supports native and sustainable species in protected forests and security strips and combats invasive neophytes, therefore taking proactive steps to adapt to the effects of climate change.
SBB’s dense rail network is fringed with many hundreds of kilometres of species-rich embankments, forest margins, hedges and individual trees. This ecological network within a densely used landscape provides habitats for various plant species, some of which are rare.
SBB regularly maintains embankments and areas of woodland along the rail network to ensure services run safely and with minimum disruption. This involves cutting back the trees and shrubs which line the tracks, regularly mowing embankments and removing invasive plant growth. Maintaining these areas is a never-ending task that also benefits nature. This periodic maintenance has produced graduated forest margins and boundary structures – these are valuable, extensive habitats which are rich in plant species.
Some railway embankments are home to rare plant species such as orchids, which demonstrates their ecological importance. The rare military orchid (Orchis militaris) thrives on a few sections of embankment along the rail network. Embankments are important sites for rare plants, as they are not subject to agricultural use and neither herbicides nor fertilisers are used. That has a positive impact on plants like the military orchid which like hardy environments.
Fighting invasive neophytes.
Invasive neophytes pose a problem for native flora and can also have an impact on the safety of railway operations. Due to their strong growth, they displace the native flora and can affect the stability of railway embankments and streams.
SBB is fighting invasive neophytes on its embankments in accordance with SBB Infrastructure’s strategy. Priority is given to species that pose a risk to health, infestations relevant to railway safety and neophyte control on ecologically valuable areas (protected areas, biodiversity areas and replacement areas). SBB is also actively involved in research into effective, herbicide-free methods of controlling neophytes.
Many railway infrastructure facilities such as green station roofs, embankments or forests are home to a great wealth of different animal species, such as the protected asp viper, palmate newt or the appolo butterfly. However, our dense transport infrastructure also cuts across animals’ habitats. This isolates populations and leads to a decline in animal numbers.
SBB is therefore connecting divided habitats and enhancing them, for example through the following projects: