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Roads and wildlife

Williams Schwartz, Amy 2020. Roads and wildlife. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Roads are an inevitable result of human expansion across the globe, but result in unintended consequences for the other species we share our planet with, both directly (e.g. through deaths due to wildlife-vehicle collisions), as well as indirectly (e.g. through habitat degradation, and providing a barrier to animal movement). These effects are so wide-reaching that a new term – road ecology – was coined in 1998 to describe the study of these ecological impacts. The overall aim of this thesis is to increase our knowledge of road ecology and begins by reviewing the literature on the scientific value of monitoring wildlife roadkill (Chapter 2). Five continuous years of data from a citizen science roadkill recording scheme ‘Project Splatter’ is then used to examine temporal trends in wildlife roadkill in the UK (Chapter 3). Camera-trapping experiments were utilised to gain additional insight into the behavioural effects of roads on wildlife, namely the behaviour of scavengers of roadkill (Chapter 4), as well as the effects of light and sound pollution caused by roads on the behaviour of wildlife (Chapter 5). A review of the existing literature in Chapter 2 demonstrates how studying roadkill has enhanced our knowledge in several critical areas of ecological study, I also show how even with limited geographical and taxonomic estimates, in excess of 400 million vertebrates are killed on roads worldwide each year. Chapter 3 shows that the temporal patterns of roadkill in the UK are peculiar to a given species, but are remarkably consistent between years, and poses the hypothesis that the observed temporal patterns are driven by species-specific seasonal changes in behaviour. In Chapter 4, I show how scavengers of roadkill can remove carcasses very quickly, potentially leading to an under-estimation of true roadkill numbers - 76% of experimentally placed carcasses were removed within 12 hours, and the number of scavenging events peaked in the first few hours of daylight. Finally, Chapter 5 demonstrates how road traffic noise is likely to negatively influence wildlife behaviour by causing animals to avoid particularly noisy areas, as well as by altering xiii their behaviour to increase the amount of vigilance behaviour, leading to a reduction in time available to spend foraging. The research presented within this thesis has expanded the current knowledge of road ecology, particularly within a UK context, and has continued to demonstrate how data collected by members of the public (through citizen science projects) can have important scientific value. This deeper understanding of the impacts of roads on wildlife is important if we wish to reduce the ecological impacts of our ever-expanding road system.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 15 January 2021
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2021 16:54

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