Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

The strategic management of the impacts of roads on vertebrates is hampered by a lack of information on 1) the scale of such impacts in different ecosystems, 2) the responses of populations and communities, and 3) the relative vulnerabilities of various vertebrate groups. We therefore examined the effects of a typical road in an arid ecosystem on kangaroo populations and communities, threatened small mammal species (Sminthopsis macroura and Leggadina forresti), and small mammal and lizard communities over two years. We determined which vertebrate populations and communities were negatively affected by the road, thereby informing management priorities for mitigating road effects. The study was conducted along the Silver City Highway on the UNSW Arid Zone Research Station, Fowlers Gap, in north-western New South Wales. We found that the road influenced the spatial distribution of kangaroos relative to the road, particularly those of Macropus rufus, and was associated with increased kangaroo mortality. Further, the road altered the composition of small mammal and lizard communities and reduced the abundance of S. macroura. However, roadkill of kangaroos did not significantly affect the population demographics or community composition of kangaroos. There were no changes in sex ratios (female dominance) which would threaten the sustainability of S. macroura and L. forresti populations near the road. Further, changes in the species composition of small mammal and lizard communities were likely to be localised near the road, rather than altered at larger scales, because the differences in resource availability driving community differences were restricted to a narrow band immediately adjacent to the road. Thus, none of the vertebrate taxa studied were significantly threatened by the presence of the road and its associated vehicle traffic. Even so, we recommend that management efforts focus on reducing the frequency of kangaroo roadkill (the most serious animal and human welfare issue) through encouraging the growth of shrubs and low vegetation unpalatable to kangaroos adjacent to arid-zone roads. Such a management strategy could also have positive flow-on effects for other vertebrate taxa, and could restore the natural integrity of arid landscapes near roads.

Anderson, M. J. 2001. A new method for non-parametric multivariate analysis of variance. Austral Ecology 26: 32-46.
Anderson, M. J. 2005. PERMANOVA: a FORTRAN computer program for permutational multivariate analysis of variance. Department of Statistics, University of Auckland.
Aresco, M. J. 2005. The effect of sex-specific terrestrial movements and roads on the sex ratio of freshwater turtles. Biological Conservation 123: 37-44.
Arnold, G. W., Steven, D. E. and Weeldenburg, J. R. 1994. Comparative ecology of western grey kangaroos ( Macropus fuliginosus) and euros ( M. robustus erubescens) in Durokoppin Nature Reserve, isolated in the central wheatbelt of Western Australia. Wildlife Research 21: 307-322.
Banks, P. B. 2001. Predation-sensitive grouping and habitat use by eastern grey kangaroos: a field experiment. Animal Behaviour 61: 1013-1021.
Barker, R. D. 1987. The diets of herbivores in the sheep rangelands. Pp. 69-83 in Kangaroos: their ecology and management in sheep rangelands, edited by G. Caughley, N. Shepherd, and J. Short. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Barnett, J. L., How, R. A. and Humphreys, W. F. 1978. The use of habitat components by small mammals in eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology 3: 277-285.
Boarman, W. I., Sazaki, M. and Jennings, W. B. 1997. The effects of roads, barrier fences and culverts on desert tortoise populations in California, USA. Pp. 54-58 in Proceedings of the International Conference on Conservation, Restoration and Management of Tortoises and Turtles, edited by J. Van Abbema. New York Turtle and Tortoise Society.
Brooks, M. L. and Lair, B. 2005 Ecological effects of vehicular routes in a desert ecosystem. Report prepared for the United States Geological Survey, Recoverability and vulnerability of desert ecosystems program. US Department of the Interior, US Geological Survey.
Buckland, S. T., Anderson, D. R., Burnham, K. P. Laake, J. L., Borchers, D. L. and Thomas, L. 2001 Introduction to distance sampling: estimating abundance of biological populations. University Press, Oxford.
Burgman, M. A. and Lindenmayer, D. B. 1998 Conservation Biology for the Australian Environment. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, NSW.
Burrell, J. P. 1973. Vegetation of Fowlers Gap Station. Pp. 175-195 in Lands of Fowlers Gap Station, New South Wales, edited by J. A. Mabbutt. The University of New South Wales.
Caro, T. M., Shargel, J. A. and Stoner, C. J. 2000. Frequency of medium-sized mammal road kills in an agricultural landscape in California. The American Midland Naturalist 144: 362-369.
Choi, C. Y. J. 2004 The behaviour of avian scavengers at Fowlers Gap. Honours thesis. University of New South Wales, Sydney.
Clancy, T. F. 1989 Factors influencing movement patterns of the euro, Macropus robustus erubescens, in the arid zone. PhD thesis. University of New South Wales.
Clancy, T. F. and Croft, D. B. 1992. Population Dynamics of the Common Wallaroo ( Macropus robustus erubescens) in arid New South Wales. Wildlife Research 19: 1-16.
Clutton-Brock, T. H., Albon, S. D. and Guinness, F. E. 1985. Parental investment and sex differences in juvenile mortality in birds and mammals. Nature 313: 131-133.
Cogger, H. 1996 Reptiles and amphibians of Australia. Reed International Books, Sydney.
Coulson, G. 1989. The effect of drought on road mortality of macropods. Australian Wildlife Research 16: 79-83.
Coulson, G. 1993. Use of heterogeneous habitat by the western grey kangaroo, Macropus fuliginosus. Wildlife Research 20: 137-149.
Croft, D. B. 1991. Home range of the euro, Macropus robustus erubescens. Journal of Arid Environments 20: 99-111.
Dawson, T. J. 1995 Kangaroos: Biology of the largest marsupials. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney.
Dawson, T. J. and Ellis, B. A. 1994. Diets of mammalian herbivores in Australian arid shrublands: seasonal effects on overlap between red kangaroos, sheep and rabbits and on dietary niche breadths and electivities. Journal of Arid Environments 26:257-271.
Dickman, C. R. 1994. Native mammals of western New South Wales: past neglect, future rehabilitation? Pp. 81-91 in Future of the fauna of western New South Wales, edited by D. Lunney, S. Hand, P. Reed, and D. Butcher. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Mosman, Australia.
Dickman, C. R., Pressey, R. L., Lim, L. and Parnaby, H. E. 1993. Mammals of particular conservation concern in the western division of New South Wales. Biological Conservation 65: 219-248.
Dickman, C. R., Predavec, M. and Downey, F. J. 1995. Long-range movements of small mammals in arid Australia: implications for land management. Journal of Arid Environments 31: 441-452.
Dyer, S. J., O'Neill, J. P., Wasel, S. M. and Boutin, S. 2002. Quantifying barrier effects of roads and seismic lines on movements of female woodland caribou in northeastern Alberta. Canadian Journal of Zoology 80: 839-845.
Fernandez, C. 1993. The choice of nesting cliffs by golden eagles, Aquila chrysaetos: the influence of accessibility and disturbance by humans. Alauda 61: 105-110.
Forman, R. T. T., Sperling, D., Bissonette, J. A., Clevenger, A. P., Cutshall, C. D., Dale, V. H., Fahrig, L., France, R., Goldman, C. R., Heanue, K., Jones, J. A., Swanson, F. J., Turrentine, T. and Winter, T. C. 2003 Road Ecology: Science and Solutions. Island Press.
Fox, B.J. and Pople, A.R. 1984. Experimental confirmation of interspecific competition between native and introduced mice. Australian Journal of Ecology 9: 323-334.
Frank, A. and Soderquist, T. 2005. The importance of refuge habitat in the local conservation of stripe-faced dunnarts Sminthopsis macroura on arid rangelands. Australian Mammalogy 27: 75-79.
Garland, J., T. and Bradley, W. G. 1984. Effects of a highway on Mojave Desert rodent populations. The American Midland Naturalist 111: 47-56.
Geoscience Australia 2006. GEODATA TOPO 250K Series 3.
Gerlach, G. and Musolf, K. 2000. Fragmentation of landscape as a cause for genetic subdivision in bank voles. Conservation Biology 14: 1066-1074.
Goosem, M. 2001. Effects of tropical rainforest roads on small mammals: inhibition of crossing movements. Wildlife Research 28: 351-364.
Gutzwiller, K. J. and Barrow, J., W. C. 2003. Influences of roads and development on bird communities in protected Chihuahuan Desert landscapes. Biological Conservation 113: 225-237.
Heatwole, H.F. and Taylor, J. 1987 Ecology of Reptiles. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, New South Wales, Australia.
Hels, T. and Buchwald, E. 2001. The effect of road kills on amphibian populations. Biological Conservation 99: 331-340.
Henle, K. 1990. Population ecology and life history of three terrestrial geckos in arid Australia. Copeia 3: 759-781.
Hubbard, M. W., Danielson, B. J. and Schmitz, R. A. 2000. Factors influencing the location of deer-vehicle accidents in Iowa. Journal of Wildlife management 64: 707-713.
Jaeger, J. A. G., Bowman, J., Brennan, J., Fahrig, L., Bert, D., Bouchard, J., Charbonneau, N., Frank, K., Gruber, B. and Tluk von Toschanowitz, K. 2005. Predicting when animal populations are at risk from roads: an interactive model of road avoidance behaviour. Ecological Modelling 185: 329-348.
James, C. D. and Shine, R. 2000. Why are there so many coexisting species of lizards in Australian deserts? Oecologica 125: 127-141.
Jones, M. E. 2000. Road upgrade, road mortality and remedial measures: impacts on a population of eastern quolls and Tasmanian devils. Wildlife Research 27: 289-296.
Kinlaw, A. 1999. A review of burrowing by semi-fossorial vertebrates in arid environments. Journal of Arid Environments 41: 127-145.
Kirkpatrick, T. H. 1965. Studies of Macropodidae in Queensland. 2. Age estimation in the grey kangaroo, the red kangaroo, the eastern wallaroo and the red-necked wallaby, with notes on dental abnormalities. Queensland Journal of Agricultural and Animal Sciences 22: 301-317.
Lee, E. 2006 The Ecological Effects of Sealed Roads in Arid Ecosystems. PhD thesis. University of New South Wales.
Lee, E., Klocker, U., Croft, D. B. and Ramp, D. 2004. Kangaroo-vehicle collisions in Australia's sheep rangelands, during and following drought periods. Australian Mammalogy 26: 215-226.
Lightfoot, D. C. and Whitford, W. G. 1991. Productivity of creosote foliage and associated canopy arthropods along a desert roadside. American Midland Naturalist 125: 310-322.
Mabbutt, J. A. 1973. Geomorphology of Fowlers Gap Station. Pp. 85-122 in Lands of Fowlers Gap Station, New South Wales, edited by J. A. Mabbutt. The University of New South Wales.
MacMillen, R.E., Augee, M.L. and Ellis, B.A. 1989. Thermal ecology and diet of some xerophilous lizards from western New South Wales. Journal of Arid Environments 16: 193-201.
Mader, H.J. 1984. Animal habitat isolation by roads and agricultural fields. Biological Conservation 29: 81-96.
Morton, S. R. 1995a. Stripe-faced dunnart Sminthopsis macroura. Pp. 148-149 in Mammals of Australia, edited by R. Strahan. Reed Books, Sydney.
Morton, S. R. 1995b. Fat-tailed dunnart Sminthopsis crassicaudata. Pp. 129-131 in Mammals of Australia, edited by R. Strahan. Reed Books, Sydney.
Moss, G. L. and Croft, D. B. 1999. Body condition of the red kangaroo ( Macropus rufus) in arid Australia: The effect of environmental condition, sex and reproduction. Australian Journal of Ecology 24: 97-109.
Mumme, R. L., Schoech, S. J., Woolfenden, G. E. and Fitzpatrick, J. W. 2000. Life and death in the fast lane: Demographic consequences of road mortality in the Florida scrub-jay. Conservation Biology 14: 501-512.
Norbury, G. L., Norbury, D. C. and Oliver, A. J. 1994. Facultative behaviour in unpredictable environments: mobility of red kangaroos in arid Western Australia. Journal of Animal Ecology 63: 410-418.
Norton, D. A. and Stafford Smith, M. 1999. Why might roadside mulgas be better mistletoe hosts? Australian Journal of Ecology 24: 193-198.
Oksanen, L. 2004. The devil lies in details: reply to Stuart Hurlbert. Oikos 104: 598-605.
Ortega, Y. K. and Capen, D. E. 1999. Effects of forest roads on habitat quality for overnbirds in a forested landscape. The Auk 116: 937-946.
Pianka, E. R. 1986 Ecology and natural history of desert lizards: Analysis of the ecological niche and community structure. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
Poole, W.E, Carpenter, S.M. and Wood, J.T. 1984. Growth of grey kangaroos and the reliability of age determination from body measurements - III. Interspecific comparisons between eastern and western grey kangaroos, Macropus giganteus and M. fuliginosus. Australian Wildlife Research 11: 11-19.
Quinn, G. P. and Keough, M. J. 2002 Experimental design and data analysis for biologists. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Ramp, D., Caldwell, J., Edwards, K. A., Warton, D. and Croft, D. B. 2005. Modelling of wildlife fatality hotspots along the Snowy Mountain Highway in New South Wales, Australia. Biological Conservation 126: 474-490.
Read, D. G. 1984. Movements and home ranges of three sympatric dasyurids, Sminthopsis crassicaudata, Planigale gilesi and P. tenuirostris (Marsupialia), in semiarid western New South Wales. Australian Wildlife Research 11: 223-234.
Reid, J. W. R. and Morton, S. R. 1995. Forrest's Mouse Leggadina forresti. Pp 555-556 in Mammals of Australia, edited by R. Strahan. Reed Books, Sydney.
Richardson, J. H., Shore, R. F., Treweek, J. R. and Larkin, S. B. C. 1997. Are major roads a barrier to small mammals? Journal of Zoology, London 243: 840-846.
Rondinini, C. and Doncaster, C. P. 2002. Roads as barriers to movement for hedgehogs. Functional Ecology 16: 504-509.
Russell, E. M. 1971. Changes in behaviour with temperature in the red kangaroo, Megaleia rufa. Australian Journal of Zoology 19: 207-213.
Seiler, A. 2005. Predicting locations of moose-vehicle collisions in Sweden. Journal of Applied Ecology 42: 371-382.
Shine, R., Lemaster, M., Wall, M., Langkilde, T. and Mason, R. 2004. Why did the garter snake cross the road? Effects of roads on movement and the location of mates by garter snakes ( Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis). Ecology and Society 9: 9-21.
Singleton, G. R. 1995. House mouse Mus musculus. Pp. 646-647 in Mammals of Australia, edited by R. Strahan. Reed Books, Sydney.
Southwell, C. 1987. Activity pattern of the eastern grey kangaroo, Macropus giganteus. Mammalia 51: 211-223.
Spellerberg, I. F. 2002 Ecological Effects of Roads. SciencePublishers, Plymouth, UK.
Stafford Smith, D. M. and Morton, S. R. 1990. A framework for the ecology of arid Australia. Journal of Arid Environments 18: 255-278.
Steen, D. A. and Gibbs, J. P. 2004. Effects of roads on the structure of freshwater turtle populations. Conservation Biology 18: 1143-1148.
Strahan, R. (Ed.) 1995 Mammals of Australia. Reed Books, Sydney.
Swan, G., Shea, G. and Sadlier, R. 2004 A field Guide to Reptiles of New South Wales. Reed New Holland, Sydney.
Tanner, D. and Perry, J. 2007. Road effects on abundance and fitness of Galápagos lava lizards ( Microlophus albemarlensis). Journal of Environmental Management doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2006.08.022
Wasser, S. K., Bevis, K., King, G. and Hanson, E. 1997. Noninvasive physiological measures of disturbance in the northern spotted owl. Conservation Biology 11: 1019-1022.
Watson, D. M. and Dawson, T. J. 1993. The effects of age, sex, reproductive status and temporal factors on the time-use of free-ranging red kangaroos ( Macropus rufus) in western New South Wales. Wildlife Research 20: 785-801.
Westoby, M. 1980. Elements of a theory of vegetation dynamics in arid rangelands. Israel Journal of Botany 28: 169-194.
This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal