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Frontiers in Environmental Science

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Traffic safety and wildlife, Roadkill, Animal ecology, Wildlife habitat improvement


Roads are not the only determining factor for wildlife movement across the landscape, but due to the extensive distribution of the road network their impact can be dramatic. Although it has been well documented that roads decrease habitat connectivity for wildlife due to animal-vehicle collisions, habitat fragmentation, and avoidance behavior, approaches for identifying connectivity across the landscape often do not fully examine the barrier effect of roads. Here, we explored the extent of the impact of roadways on wildlife connectivity by using Omniscape to model connectivity including and without the barrier effect of roads, then evaluating the difference between these two models. We created these connectivity models for three organisms that represent different taxa, movement types, and habitat requirements: northern red-legged frog, Pacific-slope flycatcher, and Columbian black-tailed deer. We found that roads had a strong impact on connectivity for all three species. Change in flow was most pronounced on the roads, especially where they ran through permeable habitat for a species. Roads also influenced connectivity well beyond the footprint of the roadway, affecting flows intersecting the roads and diffusely around them. The extent and nature of this impact depended on the species, road density, and surrounding habitat. The different effects across species highlight the importance of considering different taxa simultaneously while planning. Moreover, the ability to assess modeled wildlife habitat connectivity in the absence of existing widespread linear infrastructure allows for critical evaluation of where mitigation activities, such as wildlife crossing structures and fencing, may be most beneficial. Hence, this novel approach has practical application for increasing connectivity for wildlife across roads.


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