Encouragement of unpaved paths

Encouragement of unpaved paths
Unpaved, greened paths have a greatly reduced barrier effect. © Yann Kohler

Involved sectors

Agriculture, Forestry, Spatial planning, Tourism and leisure, Nature protection, Transport

Affected habitats

Forest, Grassland, Arable land


Depending on their type and the way in which they are built, paths can have a low to high barrier effect. Pathway systems and their peripheral areas do not necessarily have a fragmenting effect on species of flora and fauna, however: if properly designed, they can also form important elements of the biotope network. They provide ways through the landscape and also form buffer zones to intensively farmed areas. From an ecological perspective, unpaved and “greened” paths and the strips of grass and vegetation, wooded areas, hollows, ditches etc. at their margins are extremely important. If the construction of new pathways is unavoidable, the need for sufficiently wide wayside areas should be taken into account during the planning process (at least 2.50 m wide grass and vegetation strips, at least 5 m wide wooded strips along pathways). Sunken paths and 'greened' dirt tracks, too, have diverse ecological functions as they provide many niches for flora and fauna with highly diverse requirements.


Impact in particular on Small mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Birds, Insects
Ecological impact  
Reduction of fragmentation or creation of new valuable habitats Reduction of the barrier effect of paths for insects (e.g. beetles and spiders)
Improvement or preservation of habitats Unpaved paths are important for some bird species as well as brown hares (Lepus europaeus). Wet sites by paths are used by some species, e.g. as spawning areas for the yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata) or as a source of nesting material.
Element of ecological network Unpaved paths constitute important elements of a biotope network, particularly in cleared agricultural landscapes, due to their linear structure, the valuable micro-habitats they provide and their margin and border areas.
Time of realisation for measure Months: The new habitats created by the unpaved paths, or the near-natural design of existing pathways, are populated quickly.
Impact scope Very localised (plot): In principle, the impact is more localised, but the measure can gain regional importance with a large scale approach.


Implementation period Weeks: The implementation periods of suitable measures depend on the situation at the outset. The measures can be integrated easily into new pathway projects.
Frequency Non-recurring

Economic and legal aspects

Costs Medium (10'000-100'000 EUR): The exact costs depend on the situation at the outset, and subsidies from countryside management programmes are sometimes possible.
Socio-economic impacts Low: Unpaved paths are also more attractive for recreational use (hiking, mountain biking) and therefore have a high touristic value.
Sources of financing Public: local, Public: regional, Public: national, Public: European
Legal situation The design of pathways is not directly governed by any laws, but the creation of near-natural pathways can be supported through close collaboration with the agriculture and forestry sectors, as well as through landscape planning (developing guiding principles).

Further information

Evaluation Some examples show that, after the 'greening' of paths, there are more frequent occurences of animals such as rabbits/hares, butterflies and bees and even songbirds and birds of prey. Unpaved and 'greened' paths can also be advantageous for farmers as, in the long term, they can reduce the costs of controlling insects and mice in their fields. Diverse experiences have been made, e.g. in countryside management associations or nature conservation authorities. In Upper Austria, the preservation and development of paths with little paving have been defined as overarching goals in landscape planning.
Information Austria: Upper Austria: http://www.ooe.gv.at/cps/de/xchg/SID-31C32BFF-BD5213B7/ooe/hs.xsl/71437_DEU_HTML.htm
Contact Austria: e.g. Office of the Government of Upper Austria, Department of Spatial Planning, Economic and Rural Development, Nature Conservation Division

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