Wetlands Ecology and Management

Can road mortality limit populations of pool-breeding amphibians?

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Courtesy of Wetlands Ecology and Management

Abstract 
We integrated road maps, traffic volume data, and pool locations in a modeling study to estimate the potential effects of road mortality on populations of pool-breeding spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum Shaw). Population projections based on spotted salamander life tables imply that an annual risk of road mortality for adults of >10% can lead to local population extirpation; mitigation efforts (tunnels, road closures, and other measures) should seek to reduce road mortality rates to below this threshold. For central and western Massachusetts, we estimated that salamanders would be exposed to at least this threshold level of risk at 22–73% of populations (assuming a 100 vs. 500 m migration distance, respectively). We conclude that road mortality can be a significant source of additive mortality for individual spotted salamanders in many parts of the species’ range. Efforts to prevent such mortality by transportation planners are likely warranted strictly on a biological basis in areas with road densities >2.5 km per km2 of landscape and traffic volumes >250 vehicles/lane/day within the migration range of a breeding population of spotted salamanders.

Keywords: Ambystoma maculatum - Conservation - Demography - Pool-breeding amphibian - Road mortality - Spotted salamander

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