Roads and wildlife: impacts, mitigation and implications for wildlife management in Australia
Roads can disrupt the population processes of vertebrate wildlife species through habitat fragmentation and vehicle collision. The aims of this review were to synthesise the recent literature on road impacts on wildlife, to identify gaps in our understanding of this topic and to guide future research and management in Australia. We reviewed 244 published studies from the last decade on road and vehicle impacts on wildlife conducted worldwide. A geographic bias was evident among the studies, with 51% conducted in North America, 25% in Europe, 17% in Australia and 7% across several other countries. A taxonomic bias was evident towards mammals (53%), with far fewer studies on birds (10%), amphibians (9%) and reptiles (8%), and some (20%) included multiple taxonomic groups. Although this bias is partly explained by large insurance and medical costs associated with collisions involving large mammals, it is also evident in Australia and signals that large components of biodiversity are being neglected. Despite a prevalence of studies on wildlife road mortality (34%), population impacts are poorly described, although negative impacts are implicated for many species. Barrier effects of roads were examined in 44 studies, with behavioural aversion leading to adverse genetic consequences identified for some species. The installation of road-crossing structures for wildlife has become commonplace worldwide, but has largely outpaced an understanding of any population benefits. Road underpasses appear to be an important generic mitigation tool because a wide range of taxa use them. This knowledge can guide management until further information becomes available. Global concern about the decline of amphibians should lead to a greater focus on road impacts on this group. Priorities for research in Australia include (1) genetic studies on a range of taxa to provide an understanding of life-history traits that predispose species to barrier effects from roads, (2) studies that examine whether crossing structures alleviate population impacts from roads and (3) studies that describe the behavioural response of frogs to crossing structures and that identify factors that may promote the use of suitable structures. A national strategy to mitigate the impacts of roads on wildlife populations is long overdue and must ensure that research on this topic is adequately funded.
Zoology not elsewhere classified