Beyond the Wetland Border: Estimating the Impact of Roads for Two Species of Water Snakes
We used models integrating road maps, traffic volume, and snake movements to examine the potential for roads to contribute to mortality in two species of water snakes that differ in their vagility, use of terrestrial habitats, and conservation status. Road networks and traffic volumes typical of three regions in Indiana, USA, may account for mortality of 14–21% of the population per year in the more vagile, terrestrial, and imperiled copperbelly water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta) but only 3–5% mortality in the more sedentary, aquatic, and common northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon). The majority (>91%) of road crossings and associated mortality are predicted to occur during overland migrations to other wetlands, suggesting roads bisecting travel routes between wetlands may function as mortality sinks. Our models highlight the proportionately greater risk of mortality for the more vagile and imperiled species, N. e. neglecta, and suggest current wetland conservation strategies that focus on the wetland alone are unlikely to adequately protect wetland biodiversity from certain types of anthropogenic habitat modification. What is needed is a landscape approach to wetland conservation that considers not only the quality of wetlands and nearby terrestrial habitats, but also ensures that terrestrial corridors between wetlands remain permeable and offer safe passage for wildlife.
John H. Roe, Joanna Gibson, and Bruce A. Kingsbury Ph.D. (2006).
Beyond the Wetland Border: Estimating the Impact of Roads for Two Species of Water Snakes. Biological Conservation.130 (2), 161-168.