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Modeling road mortality hotspots of Eastern Hermann’s tortoise in Romania

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Road-associated mortality can lead to local declines of wildlife populations, and management agencies are actively implementing mitigation measures, especially focused on potential road mortality hotspots. In this study we used a spatially-explicit simulation modeling approach to estimate the hotspots of road mortality for the Eastern Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni boettgeri) within its distribution range in Romania. Using a field experiment, we first evaluated velocities while crossing roads. Adult male tortoises moved faster than females (3.98 m/min vs. 2.51 m/min) which led to higher individual probabilities for females being killed on high-traffic roads (0.61 for females vs. 0.44 for males at traffic levels of 7000 vehicles/day). Both males and females had similar road mortality probabilities for traffic levels <1000 and >35 000 vehicles/day. Our spatially explicit model suggests that, within the entire Romanian distributional range, the tortoises have an overall risk of road mortality 1.6%, which may have a negative impact on tortoise populations. Using the Getis-Ord Gi statistic, we identified road mortality hotspots with mortality rates of 5-30%, in areas bisected by high-traffic national and European-level roads. Our research is timely in that many low-traffic roads are predicted to have increased traffic associated with tourism activities, thus increasing the overall risk of mortality. We suggest that mitigation measures such as signage and roadside fences associated with underpasses have the potential to limit road mortality of this threatened species within predicted current mortality hotspots.

Affiliations: 1: 1Centre for Environmental Research (CCMESI), University of Bucharest, 1 N. Balcescu Blvd., RO-010041, Bucharest, Romania


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