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Permeability of roads to movement of scrubland lizards and small mammals

September 17, 2013

A primary objective of road ecology is to understand and predict how roads affect connectivity of wildlife populations. Road avoidance behavior can fragment populations, whereas lack of road avoidance can result in high mortality due to wildlife-vehicle collisions. Many small animal species focus their activities to particular microhabitats within their larger habitat. We sought to assess how different types of roads affect the movement of small vertebrates and to explore whether responses to roads may be predictable on the basis of animal life history or microhabitat preferences preferences. We tracked the movements of fluorescently marked animals at 24 sites distributed among 3 road types: low-use dirt, low-use secondary paved, and rural 2-lane highway. Most data we collected were on the San Diego pocket mouse (Chaetodipus fallax), cactus mouse (Peromyscus eremicus), western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis), orange-throated whiptail (Aspidoscelis hyperythra), Dulzura kangaroo rat (Dipodomys simulans) (dirt, secondary paved), and deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) (highway only). San Diego pocket mice and cactus mice moved onto dirt roads but not onto a low-use paved road of similar width or onto the highway, indicating they avoidpaved road substrate. Both lizard species moved onto the dirt and secondary paved roads but avoided the rural 2-lane rural highway, indicating they may avoid noise, vibration, or visual disturbance from a steady flow of traffic. Kangaroo rats did not avoid the dirt or secondary paved roads. Overall, dirt and secondary roads were more permeable to species that prefer to forage or bask in open areas of their habitat, rather than under the cover of rocks or shrubs. However, all study species avoided the rural 2-lane highway. Our results suggest that microhabitat use preferences and road substrate help predict species responses to low-use roads,but roads with heavy traffic may deter movement of a much wider range of small animal species.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2013
Title Permeability of roads to movement of scrubland lizards and small mammals
DOI 10.1111/cobi.12081
Authors Cheryl S. Brehme, Jeff A. Tracey, Leroy R. McClenaghan, Robert N. Fisher
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Conservation Biology
Index ID 70125372
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center