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16 April 2019 Habitat suitability, live abundance and their link to road mortality of Tasmanian wildlife
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Abstract

Context. Tasmania has been called the roadkill capital of Australia. However, little is known about the population-level impact of vehicle mortality on native mammals in the island state.

Aims. The aims were to investigate the predictability of roadkill on a given route, based on models of species distribution and live animal abundance for three marsupial species in Tasmania – the Tasmanian pademelon (Thylogale billardierii), Bennett’s wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus) and the bare-nosed wombat (Vombatus ursinus) – and to assess the possibility of predicting the magnitude of state-wide road mortality based on live animal abundance.

Methods. Road mortality of the three species was measured on eight 15-km road segments in south-eastern Tasmania, during 16 weeks over the period 2016–17. Climate suitability was predicted using state-wide geographical location records, using species distribution models, and counts of these species from 190 spotlight survey roads.

Key results. The Tasmanian pademelons were the most frequently killed animal encountered over the study period. Live abundance, predicted by fitting models to spotlight counts, did not correlate with this fatality rate for any species. However, the climate suitability index generated by the species distribution models was strongly predictive for wombat roadkill, and moderately so for pademelons.

Conclusions. Although distributional and wildlife abundance records are commonly available and well described by models based on climate, vegetation and land-use predictors, this approach to climate suitability modelling has limited predictability for roadkill counts on specific routes.

Implications. Road-specific factors, such as characteristics of the road infrastructure, nearby habitats and behavioural traits, seem to be required to explain roadkill frequency. Determining their relative importance will require spatial analysis of roadkill locations.

© CSIRO 2019
Hanh K. D. Nguyen, Matthew W. Fielding, Jessie C. Buettel, and Barry W. Brook "Habitat suitability, live abundance and their link to road mortality of Tasmanian wildlife," Wildlife Research 46(3), 236-246, (16 April 2019). https://doi.org/10.1071/WR18128
Received: 16 February 2018; Accepted: 23 January 2019; Published: 16 April 2019
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