Road impacts a tipping point for wildlife populations in threatened landscapes

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Journal Article
Population Ecology, 2011, 53 (1), pp. 215 - 227
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The conservation of wildlife populations living adjacent to roads is gaining international recognition as a worldwide concern. Populations living in road-impacted environments are influenced by spatial parameters including the amount and arrangement of suitable habitat. Similarly, heterogeneity in threatening processes can act at a variety of spatial scales and be crucial in affecting population persistence. Common wombats (Vombatus ursinus) are considered both widespread and abundant throughout their eastern Australian continental distribution. They nevertheless face many threats, primarily human induced. As well as impacts from disease and predation by introduced species, high roadside fatality rates on many rural roads are frequently reported. We parameterized a model for common wombat population viability analysis within a 750-km2 area of the northwestern corner of Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales, Australia, and tested its sensitivity to changes in the values of basic parameters. We then assessed the relative efficiency of various mitigation measures by examining the combined impact from roads, disease and predation on wombat subpopulation persistence in the area. We constructed a stage-structured and spatially explicit model incorporating estimates of survival and fecundity parameters for each of the identified subpopulations using RAMAS GIS. Estimates of current threatening processes suggest mitigating road-kill is the most effective management solution. Results highlight the importance of recognizing the interplay between various threats and how their combination has the capacity to drive local depletion events. © 2010 The Society of Population Ecology and Springer.
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