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PeerJ. 2017 Feb 28;5:e2922. doi: 10.7717/peerj.2922. eCollection 2017.

Facilitating permeability of landscapes impacted by roads for protected amphibians: patterns of movement for the great crested newt.

Author information

1
School of Environmental Sciences, University of Hull, Hull, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom; Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences (CEMS), University of Hull, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom.
2
Froglife , Peterborough , United Kingdom.
3
School of Environmental Sciences, University of Hull, Hull, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom; National Wildlife Management Centre, Animal and Plant Health Agency, York, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom.
4
School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, Open University , Milton Keynes , United Kingdom.

Abstract

Amphibian populations are highly vulnerable to road mortality and habitat fragmentation caused by road networks. Wildlife road tunnels are considered the most promising road mitigation measure for amphibians yet generally remain inadequately monitored, resulting in mixed success rates in the short-term and uncertain conservation benefits in the long-term. We monitored a complex multi-tunnel and fence system over five years and investigated the impact of the scheme on movement patterns of two newt species, including the largest known UK population of the great crested newt (Triturus cristatus), a European Protected Species. We used a stage descriptive approach based on capture positions to quantify newt movement patterns. Newt species successfully used the mitigation but the system constituted a bottleneck to movements from the fences to the tunnels. Crossing rates varied widely among years and were skewed towards autumn dispersal rather than spring breeding migration. There was a substantial negative bias against adult male great crested newts using the system. This study indicates that road tunnels could partially mitigate wider connectivity loss and fragmentation at the landscape scale for newt species. However, the observed bottleneck effects and seasonal bias could have population-level effects which must be better understood, especially for small populations, so that improvements can be made. Current requirements for monitoring mitigation schemes post-implementation are probably too short to assess their effectiveness in maintaining connectivity and to adequately understand their population-level impacts.

KEYWORDS:

Connectivity; Dispersal; Great crested newt; Migration; Road ecology; Smooth newt; Underpass; Wildlife crossing

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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