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Movement of small mammals across divided highways with vegetated medians

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Previous studies suggest the gap in forest cover generated by roads contributes to the barrier effect of roads on movement of forest-dwelling small mammals. However, it is not known if vegetated medians of divided highways affect movement of small mammals by reducing the effective highway width. The purpose of our study was to determine whether the type of vegetation cover in the median (treed or grassy) or median width affects small-mammal crossings of divided highways. At 11 study sites varying in median cover type and width, we live-trapped small mammals next to one side of the highway and translocated them to the opposite side of the highway using a standardized translocation distance. In total, 24% of translocated individuals were recaptured on the side of the highway of initial capture, i.e., they had moved across the entire highway. This was significantly lower than what would have been expected in the absence of the highway (58%). The overall probability of recapturing a translocated individual was not significantly related to median cover type or width. Our results suggest that efforts to mitigate the barrier effect of highways on small mammals cannot be accomplished by altering median vegetation type and width.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Geomatics and Landscape Ecology Laboratory, Department of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada. 2: Department of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada.

Publication date: December 16, 2011

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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