Evidence that a Highway Reduces Apparent Survival Rates of Squirrel Gliders
Sarah C McCall, Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology; School of Botany, University of Melbourne
Michael A McCarthy, School of Botany, University of Melbourne
Rodney van der Ree, Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology; School of Botany, University of Melbourne
Michael J Harper, Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology; Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria
Silvana Cesarini, School of Biological Scienes, Monash University
Kylie Soanes, Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology
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Roads and traffic are prominent components of most landscapes throughout the world, and their negative effects on the natural environment can extend for hundreds or thousands of meters beyond the road. These effects include mortality of wildlife due to collisions with vehicles, pollution of soil and air, modification of wildlife behavior in response to noise, creation of barriers to wildlife movement, and establishment of dispersal conduits for some plant and animal species. In southeast Australia, much of the remaining habitat for the squirrel glider, Petaurus norfolcensis
, is located in narrow strips of Eucalyptus
woodland that is adjacent to roads and streams, as well as in small patches of woodland vegetation that is farther from roads. We evaluated the effect of traffic volume on squirrel gliders by estimating apparent annual survival rates of adults along the Hume Freeway and nearby low-traffic-volume roads. We surveyed populations of squirrel gliders by trapping them over 2.5 years, and combined these data with prior information on apparent survival rates in populations located away from freeways to model the ratio of apparent annual survival rates in both site types. The apparent annual survival rate of adult squirrel gliders living along the Hume Freeway was estimated to be approximately 60% lower than for squirrel gliders living near local roads. The cause of the reduced apparent survival rate may be due to higher rates of mortality and/or higher emigration rates adjacent to the Hume Freeway compared with populations near smaller country roads. Management options for population persistence will be influenced by which of these factors is the primary cause of a reduced apparent survival rate.
Australia; emigration; mortality; population persistence; road ecology; squirrel glider; survival
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