Spatial Amphibian Impact Assessment – a management tool for assessment of road effects on regional populations of Moor frogs (Rana arvalis)

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An expanding network of roads and railways fragments natural habitat affecting the amount and quality of habitat and reducing connectivity between habitat patches with severe consequences for biodiversity and population persistence. To ensure an ecologically sustainable transportation system it is essential to find agreement between nature conservation and land use. However, sustainable road planning requires adequate tools for assessment, prevention and mitigation of the impacts of infrastructure. In this study, we present a spatially explicit model, SAIA (Spatial Amphibian Impact Assessment), to be used as a standardized and quantitative tool for assessing the impact of roads on pond-breeding amphibians. The model considers a landscape mosaic of breeding habitat, summer habitat and uninhabitable land. As input, we use a GIS-map of the landscape with information on land cover as well as data on observed frog populations in the survey area. The dispersal of juvenile frogs is simulated by means of individual-based modelling, while a population-based model is used for simulating population dynamics. In combination the two types of models generate output on landscape connectivity and population viability. Analyses of maps without the planned road constructions will constitute a “null-model” against which other scenarios can be compared, making it possible to assess the effect of road projects on landscape connectivity and population dynamics. Analyses and comparisons of several alternative road projects can identify the least harmful solution. The effect of mitigation measures, such as new breeding ponds and underpasses, can be evaluated by incorporating them in the maps, thereby enhancing the utility of the model as a management tool in Environmental Impact Assessments. We demonstrate how SAIA can be used to assess which management measures would be best to mitigate the effect of landscape fragmentation caused by road constructions by means of a case study dedicated to the Moor frog (Rana arvalis).
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Conservation
Pages (from-to)29-52
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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