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Spatial analysis of amphibian road mortality levels in northern Portugal country roads

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Animal mortality caused by vehicle collisions is one of the main ecological impacts of roads. Amphibians are the most affected group and road fatalities have a significant impact on population dynamics and viability. Several studies on Iberian amphibians have shown the importance of country roads on amphibian road mortality, but still, little is known about the situation in northern Portugal. By being more permeable to amphibian passage, country roads represent a greater source of mortality than highways, which act as barriers. Thus, mitigation measures should be applied, but due to the extensive road network, the identification of precise locations (hotspots) and variables related to animal-vehicle collision is needed to plan these measures successfully. The aim of the study was to analyse the spatial occurrence and related factors linked to amphibian mortality on a number of country roads in northern Portugal, using spatial statistics implemented in GIS and applying a binary logistical regression. We surveyed 631 km of road corresponding to seven transects, and observed 404 individual amphibians: 74 (18.3%) alive and 330 (81.7%) road-killed. Bufo bufo represented 80% of the mortality records. Three transects showed clustered distribution of road-kills, and broadleaved forests and road ditches were the most important factors associated with hotspots of road-kill. Logistic regression models showed that habitat quality, Bufo bufo’s habitat preferences, and road ditches are positively associated with amphibians’ road mortality in northern Portugal, whereas average altitude and length of walls were negatively associated. This study is a useful tool to understand spatial occurrence of amphibian road-kills in the face of applying mitigation measures on country roads from northern Portugal. This study also considers the necessity of assessing the condition of amphibian local populations to understand their road-kills spatial patterns and the urgency to apply mitigation measures on country roads.

Affiliations: 1: Centro de Investigação em Ciências Geo-Espaciais (CICGE), Universidade do Porto, Departamento de Geociências, Ambiente e Ordenamento do Território, Rua Campo Alegre, 687, 4169-007 Porto, Portugal

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2012-01-03
2016-12-09

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