We are living in the most dramatic era of infrastructure expansion in human history, with global investments in transportation, energy, water and other infrastructure expected to double by 2030.
Ape-range states in equatorial Africa and Southeast Asia are under acute pressure, with many new roads and other infrastructure projects penetrating remaining intact or pristine habitats. Roads open forests to a range of human activities—such as poaching, logging, fires, illegal mining, deforestation and habitat fragmentation—that pose major threats to ape populations and species. Efforts to limit the negative environmental, social and economic impacts of infrastructure projects are far from satisfactory; for example, environmental impact assessments are often inadequate.
There is a great need to strengthen land-use planning in ape-range states, to improve the management of protected areas and to design more sustainable infrastructure. Near-term trends are alarming, with China leading infrastructure schemes in Asia, Africa and Europe, with a focus on extractive industries like mineral, oil and timber exploitation. Another concern is that many private and public investors are ill-informed about the potentially large negative impacts of their infrastructure investments.
Overall, rapid economic and population growth in many ape-range states, alongside weaknesses in environmental planning, enforcement and governance, are posing profound, vexing threats to apes and their habitats.