An objective road risk assessment method for multiple species: ranking 166 reptiles and amphibians in California

Landscape Ecology
By: , and 

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Abstract

Context

Transportation and wildlife agencies may consider the need for barrier structures and safe wildlife road-crossings to maintain the long-term viability of wildlife populations. In order to prioritize these efforts, it is important to identify species that are most at risk of extirpation from road-related impacts.

Purpose

Our goal was to identify reptiles and amphibians in California most susceptible to road mortality and fragmentation. With over 160 species and a lack of species-specific research data, we developed an objective risk assessment method based upon road ecology science.

Methods

Risk scoring was based upon a suite of life history and space-use characteristics associated with negative road effects applied in a hierarchical manner from individuals to species. We evaluated risk to both aquatic and terrestrial connectivity and calculated buffer distances to encompass 95% of population-level movements. We ranked species into five relative categories of road-related risk (very-high to very-low) based upon 20% increments of all species scores.

Results

All chelonids, 72% of snakes, 50% of anurans, 18% of lizards and 17% of salamander species in California were ranked at high or very-high risk from negative road impacts. Results were largely consistent with local and global scientific literature in identifying high risk species and groups.

Conclusions

This comparative risk assessment method provides a science-based framework to identify species most susceptible to negative road impacts. The results can inform regional-scale road mitigation planning and prioritization efforts and threat assessments for special-status species. We believe this approach is applicable to numerous landscapes and taxonomic groups.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title An objective road risk assessment method for multiple species: ranking 166 reptiles and amphibians in California
Series title Landscape Ecology
DOI 10.1007/s10980-018-0640-1
Volume 33
Issue 6
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 25 p.
First page 911
Last page 935
Country United States
State California