Checnet figure Maarten Van Strien 2014

Coupling human and ecological networks for sustainable landscape and transport planning

Main content

Human networks, consisting of settlements and roads, are often a threat to the integrity of ecological networks, in which natural habitats are connected with one another. Well-connected ecological networks are necessary to ensure biodiversity and well-functioning ecosystems. On the one hand, most ecosystems have the capacity, up to a certain threshold, to absorb human-made changes and maintain their functioning. On the other hand, human societies have the ability to adapt their land-use or behaviour, to ensure that these ecosystem thresholds are not reached. Due to the complex interactions and trade-offs within and between human and ecological networks, it is difficult to determine how land use and transportation changes will effect biodiversity and what changes are necessary to prevent biodiversity loss. Therefore, the CHECNET project aims to discover thresholds to land-use and traffic changes in ecological networks as well as to determine likely changes in a human network as a result of biodiversity conservation measures. We do so by coupling human and ecological networks in the densely populated Swiss Plateau. The project consists of three work-packages.

The first work-package focusses on developing a method to construct ecological networks from readily available animal occurrence data making use of habitat suitability modelling and spatial network analyses. Variables from the human network (e.g. traffic intensity, distance to settlements) will be used as explanatory variables in the construction of the ecological networks. This will allow us to study how the ecological networks react to changes in the human network.

In the second work-package we conduct a survey amongst the Swiss population to find trade-offs between biodiversity conservation measures and residential, transport and route choices. The results of the survey will be implemented in the land-use transport model FaLC, which will subsequently be used to make spatially explicit predictions of how settlement development and traffic flows may change as a result of measures focussed on protecting biodiversity.

The results of the first two work-packages will be combined in the third work-package, in which a full coupling of ecological and human networks is performed by iteratively switching between the models to create a chain of actions and reactions between the networks. This sequence of model runs will determine whether human networks can adapt to prevent thresholds in the ecological networks from being reached.

This project will not only result in important scientific advances in spatial ecology as well as landscape and transport planning, but is also of high relevance to the now starting process of implementing ecological infrastructure into Swiss landscapes.


Maarten van Strien


Maarten van Strien
Adrienne Grêt-Regamey
Amin Khiali-Miab
Rolf Holderegger (Eidg. Forschungsanstalt WSL)
Damian Ortiz Rodríguez (Eidg. Forschungsanstalt WSL)
Kay W. Axhausen (ETH Zürich)
Ilka Dubernet (ETH Zürich)
Antoine Guisan (Universität Lausanne)


Swiss National Science Foundation – Interdisciplinary projects


Van Strien, M.J., Grêt-Regamey, A. (2016) How is habitat connectivity affected by settlement and road networkconfigurations? Results from simulating coupled habitat and humannetworks. Ecological Modelling, 342, 186-198 Download

Project timeframe

01.2016 – 01.2019


Ongoing project