Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Turning the threat into a solution: using roadways to survey cryptic species and to identify locations for conservation

James H. Baxter-Gilbert A B D , Julia L. Riley A B , Sean P. Boyle A , David Lesbarrères A C and Jacqueline D. Litzgus A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Biology, Laurentian University, 935 Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, Ontario, P3E 2C6, Canada.

B Present address: Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia.

C These authors contributed equally to this work.

D Corresponding author. Email: jx_baxtergilbert@laurentian.ca

Australian Journal of Zoology - https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO17047
Submitted: 11 August 2017  Accepted: 8 November 2017   Published online: 11 December 2017

Abstract

Freshwater turtles are one of the most imperilled groups of vertebrates globally, and roads have been associated with their decline. Although roads are typically viewed as an imminent threat to population persistence, because of direct mortality and increased landscape fragmentation, we argue that they are an important sampling tool for collecting a wide variety of data that can inform conservation efforts. Road surveys can yield important presence data when conducting species inventories, particularly for cryptic species, and can also indicate where to implement road mitigation measures. Our research examined three road survey methods from two previous studies (walking versus bicycling and walking versus driving) to test their relative effectiveness at locating turtles. We found that walking surveys yielded the highest number of turtles per kilometre; however, bicycling and driving surveys also presented advantages (specifically, the ability to survey longer lengths of road more quickly). We recommend using walking surveys in areas of specific interest (e.g. to investigate suitable habitat for imperilled species or to investigate the presence of cryptic species), and bicycling or driving surveys between sections of specific interest. Road survey methods could be used in addition to more traditional sampling approaches (e.g. trapping and visual surveys), and do not need to be restricted to areas where roadwork projects are in progress or being planned. Road surveys could also be used during general environmental assessments and ecological research, to effectively incorporate turtle presence data into conservation efforts.

Additional keywords: environmental assessment, mitigation, road ecology, road mortality, survey methods.


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