Case Study by: Austin Perez
A modern airport is not the sort of place where one would typically expect to find a large tract of protected wild nature. But, the Zurich Airport, Flughafen Zürich AG, has demonstrated an extraordinary devotion to protecting the region’s wild nature by designating a large amount of the airport’s property as nature conservation areas. The Zurich Airport maintains over half of its site as nature conservation areas, and thereby protects some of the region’s beautiful ecosystems and several species of Switzerland’s unique flora and fauna.
Flughafen Zürich AG is located just 13 kilometers north of Zurich’s city center, and it is Switzerland’s largest international airport. Although the Zurich Airport is a bustling transportation center, more than half of the airport’s site is undeveloped and not utilized for aviation. Zurich Airport covers an area of approximately 880 hectares, of which 780 hectares are fenced off and not open to the public. Approximately half of the airport’s total land area has been maintained as conservation areas or undeveloped green spaces that feature an assortment of ecologically valuable natural landscapes of reed meadows, mire woodlands, and marshlands.
© Zurich Airport
The 74 hectare nature conservation area “Klotener Riet”, which is located between two of the airport’s runways, consists of a very unique ecosystem of national importance. Together with the other nature conservation areas adjacent to the airport, “Altläufe der Glatt”, “Bachenbülacher Allmend”, “Rütner Allmend” and “Goldentor”, these protected areas constitute some of the only remaining mire landscapes in this region of Europe. By supporting ecosystem connectivity and protecting these extremely unique and ecologically valuable marshland forest ecosystems, the Zurich Airport is helping to conserve an important aspect of Switzerland’s landscape and biodiversity.
© Wikipedia Commons
The nature conservation areas at the Zurich Airport also support a diverse array of flora and fauna. Fox, deer, rabbits, boars, and frogs have all been spotted amongst the airport’s green spaces. Beavers have also recently been observed within the airport’s nature conservation areas, and are believed to have migrated onto the airport’s property from neighboring watercourses. Amazingly, the Zurich Airport has become a haven for nature and provides a rich habitat for several species of wildlife.
Beaver © MySwitzerland.com
The Zurich Airport has often been rated as one of the world’s best airports, and the opportunity for travelers to experience the region’s wild nature while on a long layover is definitely a major aspect of its appeal. Visitors can rent bikes, inline skates, or walking poles at the airport’s service center to explore the miles of trails that traverse the property’s nature areas. The opportunity for recreation in these beautiful green spaces creates a truly unique airport experience, and offers visitors a fun and exciting way to pass the time while waiting for their plane to depart.
© Zurich Airport
To ensure the long-term vitality of the property’s valuable natural areas, Zurich Airport carefully manages its grounds in a manner that supports the preservation of the airport’s nature conservation areas and green spaces. The airport’s growth and development is carefully monitored to minimize any negative impacts on the surrounding environment. In 2003, the airport undertook a 10-year study to monitor the hydrologic balance in the low moorland area, and the results of this study revealed that the construction work for airport expansion did not have any sort of negative impact on the hydrology of the airport’s marshland forest ecosystems. The airport is also managed to ensure the protection of the area’s wildlife. For example, the green spaces surrounding the airport’s runways are maintained as long-grass meadows in order to protect the area’s bird species. The long-grass meadows function to deter to birds of prey, which prefer hunting for food in short grass meadows, and to prevent flocking birds from settling in large groups amongst the high grass. This management strategy helps to lower the risk of bird strikes by airplanes, thereby helping to both protect the region’s birds and increase aviation safety.
© Vance Martin
Zurich Airport provides an excellent example of how the Nature Needs Half vision and practice can be applied in any place where nature exists – even amongst the infrastructure and urban development of a major metropolis. We encourage airport officials to continue to expand upon this superb work by concentrating on ways that they can enhance connectivity of their “half” to other such areas in the urban/metropolitan zone, and onwards to larger areas of wild nature. Flughafen Zürich AG is Switzerland’s largest airport, and serves millions of people as a hub for international travel. Yet, Zurich Airport has nonetheless managed to implement the Nature Needs Half concept by maintaining an extraordinary commitment to conserving and interconnecting the region’s landscapes and areas of wild nature. By doing so, Zurich has created an outstanding model for other cities and nations striving to develop their urban areas in manner that allows for the conservation of natural landscapes.
© Zurich Airport