Talk Roads and Ecological Infrastructure: Concepts and Applications for Small Animals

Imagine that one day, as you were driving to the grocery store, you found that there was now a minefield across the main road. There is no way for you to get to the store without crossing the minefield. What would you do? Then, another day, a nice smooth bridge is built over the minefield. Your pathway is restored! This is the concept behind our new book, Roads and Ecological Infrastructure: Concepts and Applications for Small Animals. Because of public infrastructure, we are able to get back and forth from the grocery store, or from our homes and the places we go to have fun. For animals, this is ecological infrastructure – the basic habitat components and their connections necessary for species survival, and for natural populations, communities, and ecosystems to function properly. Small animals in particular are considered low profile on roads for several reasons. Small animals are less visually obvious to drivers and pose a reduced risk in terms of human safety and economic property damage. They are more vulnerable to being struck on the road, and it is also less apparent when they are declining in populations. Further, wildlife taxa, such as snakes, are not popular in today’s society and do not raise public concern to the same extent as large vertebrates when there are elevated road effects. Best practices for design and mitigation are sorely needed. Our book attempts to address these needs, and describes and recommends considerations for planning, mitigation, and enhancement of existing structures. It encompasses the suite of both direct and indirect effects of roads on small animals with attention to minimizing costs and conflicts while maximizing connectivity and natural ecological functions. The ecosystem perspective also allows for species groupings beyond taxonomic similarity and into habitat-based similarities or specializations. We also offer information on how transportation agencies operate and how road projects are funded, and how conservation practitioners can engage with these agencies. The book printed in spring 2015 by Johns Hopkins University Press as part of The Wildlife Society book series. Here, we will highlight examples of the book’s content and how it can be applied to urbanization to better achieve long-term sustainability of wildlife populations. The presentation will include management results from these case studies and reflect on lessons learned from small vertebrate mitigation projects in both North America and Europe. In order to facilitate networking and available resources for current projects, we will highlight on-going global efforts that are attempting to tackle some of the challenges for which we have not yet developed solutions. To direct efficiency and application in transportation infrastructure planning and management, we will identify areas in need of ecological field investigation and validation of structure effectiveness.

adaptive management; amphibians; aquatic; citizen science; habitat; ecosystem; mammals; methods; mitigation; monitoring; planning; policy; reptiles; signage; surveys; techniques; terrestrial; underpasses; vertebrates