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  Handing on
our Heritage

Transport Implications of use and management


 User associated problems relate to user characteristics including the physical attributes and the frequency of the mode of transport, for example visual intrusion, noise and air pollution including dust, light and water pollution (Table 5.4). Management is a necessary requirement to maintain optimum functionality. This too has wider implications affecting the landscape and biological diversity. In particular, the management of the soft estate and the good repair of special installations for fauna.


The frequency and type of vehicle along roads is not always a function of the size of the road. For example, in parts of CEE large roads were constructed for strategic purposes and have low traffic flows, elsewhere, small roads may be over capacity with high traffic flows. The latter can be problematic on account of associated air and water pollution, and the lack of crossing facilities for wildlife. 


Thus, a gradual increase in use to over capacity may be associated with negative effects by default. Such effects may be less easy to control than with the construction of a new road but this is a question of balance. On line widening schemes likewise are not automatically better than a new road – on line improvements can result in the destruction of verges associated with a diverse flora or significant feature trees.


The wider environmental effects of highway maintenance can be overlooked with implications for the realisation of the original design i.e. habitat creation and/ or protection of features of value. For example, maintenance depots on strategic routes require additional land take. Where possible these should be located with other services, e.g. service stations. Oil interceptor tanks and balancing ponds need clearing in order to function and assist in reducing water pollution.


In cold climates, salt is applied to the carriageway with consequential run-off into the adjacent watercourses. The maintenance of a snow free carriageway can cause a barrier (snow-wall) for wildlife wanting to cross. Also it can attract wildlife to the snow free carriageway causing a hazard to road users. With heavy snowfall wildlife underpasses and fences can become blocked diverting animals across the road and causing a traffic hazard also.


Routine verge maintenance is required to maintain sight lines for safety and the maintenance of firebreaks, and for access to telematics. This can be restricted to a narrow width with the remaining verge area managed to benefit identified/particular species of wildlife.




With railways regular maintenance is required to keep the track line clear for safe use. The passage of trains results in contamination of the track bed including herbicides, faecal matter, metal dust and lubricants. This can cause pollution of the ground water, streams and soil, the significance of which depends on the level of contamination and vulnerable species but little data is available on this aspect. Track ballast has to be replaced regularly and is difficult to recycle creating disposal problems.


Mostly a minimalist approach is taken to bank maintenance of railways to meet operational requirement only, for example clearance of scrub on a 5-10 year cycle. Also bank vegetation is subject to accidental or intentional burning. As with road and canal embankments, there may be opportunities to relate the management of the soft estate to landscape and wildlife objectives.




As previously noted, waterways may serve several objectives in addition to transport and these affect use. Pollution and bank erosion from the wash of boats are some of the main effects associated with navigation. Also, pollution includes problems relating to the importing of exotic species in ballast water or through the mixing of waters from other ecosystems. Exotics can thrive, for example an aggressive alien macrophytes can submerge the native flora in a relatively short space of time leading to a significant decline in habitat quality. Control can result in huge maintenance problems and be expensive (Newman J 2000). Greater awareness of problems associated with exotics could assist with their more timely removal.


Regular occurrence of water pollution from boats includes oil, antifouling paints and other chemicals as well as domestic waste causes problems. Maintenance dredging is an ongoing requirement of such navigations, with associated disposal problems.


Maintenance of canal bank sides may be important to retain their engineering integrity (dam function). As with roads and railways, embankments can provide a valuable habitat in their own right. Unlike road and rail, mostly this area is not subject to contaminants arising from transport users.



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Mr. Sandro Cafolla t/a  Design By Nature  (Ire). Monavea, Carlow, Ireland. Eircode R93 T289 
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