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Research to inform passage spacing for migratory amphibians and to evaluate efficacy and designs for open elevated road segment (ERS) passages

August 9, 2022

This is a multifaceted project that includes three main areas of research targeted to inform effective crossing systems for migratory amphibians, a large group of species which are at very high risk from negative impacts from roads within their habitats (Glista et al. 2008, Hamer and McDonnell 2008, Semlitsch 2008, Brehme et al. 2018). The three projects presented in this report are:

1) Movement distances along road barrier fencing and probabilities of reaching a passage: Case study with Yosemite toads in Sierra National Forest, CA.

2) Effectiveness of a novel elevated road segment (ERS) road passage system prototype in providing connectivity for amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals: Case study in Sierra National Forest, CA.

3) Concept designs and transportation engineering evaluation for the ERS on primary roads and highways.

This research began in 2018 as part of a larger U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research program in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and Western Transportation Institute (WTI; Montana State University) to inform best management practices for barrier and crossing systems for sensitive amphibians and reptiles in California (Langton and Clevenger 2021, Brehme and Fisher 2020). The funding from Department of Transportation (DOT) pooled fund partners (Parks Canada / Government of Canada, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), U.S. State Departments of Transportation (AK, AZ, CA, CO, IA, MI, MN, NM, NV, OR, WA), Ontario Ministry of Transportation) and managed by the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) supported 2021 field study efforts, analyses of fence movement distances for Yosemite toads, and analysis of the efficacy of a novel ERS passage system to Yosemite toads and other amphibians, reptiles and small mammals. Finally, this pooled fund project includes an assessment by transportation engineers in consultation with USGS and Caltrans to provide insight, guidance, and concept designs for similar crossing solutions that could be implemented on improved roads.

This research is meant to inform the distances required between crossings to provide permeability for migratory amphibians (i.e., to allow movements necessary for population persistence across roads) as well as to assess the permeability of a new passage design for amphibians and other small animal species that may provide greater connectivity and offer an alternative to below grade tunnels. The results of these studies add to the current body of knowledge in road ecology and increase the choices of road passage designs for amphibians and other small wildlife species.

Publication Year 2022
Title Research to inform passage spacing for migratory amphibians and to evaluate efficacy and designs for open elevated road segment (ERS) passages
Authors Cheryl S. Brehme, Stephanie Barnes, Brittany Ewing, Cassie Vaughan, Michael Hobbs, Charles Tornaci, Philip Robert Gould, Sarah Holm, Hanna Sheldon, Robert N. Fisher
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Index ID 70234350
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center