• fauna;
  • habitat connectivity;
  • monitoring;
  • road underpass;
  • tropical rainforest

Summary Four large underpasses, specifically designed for movements by fauna, form part of a major road upgrade project on the Atherton Tablelands in northeast Queensland, Australia. We describe the design and rationale of a project to test their effectiveness in restoring habitat continuity for tropical rainforest fauna. The large blocks of upland rainforest divided by the road are recognized for their high faunal conservation significance, forming habitat for many rare or threatened species. Ecologists, road engineers and the Atherton Tablelands conservation community have united with a common conservation goal: to design the ‘furniture’ within the underpasses and accomplish rainforest revegetation to provide protective cover and attract fauna to underpass entrances. Prior to construction, small mammals were trapped weekly for several months in habitats close to the road upgrade. The small mammal community comprised grassland species in abandoned pasture and differed significantly from the rainforest specialists found in three closed canopy habitats: rainforest edge, rainforest interior and Lantana shrubland. Rainforest restoration works designed to restore connectivity for rainforest fauna across this abandoned pastureland (via the underpasses to major rainforest blocks to the north and south of the road) are currently in progress. Monitoring of the effectiveness of the underpasses in allowing faunal movements will involve the use of infra-red-triggered cameras within the underpasses and near underpass entrances, and a survey of road-killed fauna both prior to and postconstruction. Further examination of small mammal community structure and movements, with respect to both the new road and the underpasses, will be undertaken once rainforest plantings have become established. This evaluation should provide insights for further road-associated restoration projects in rainforest regions.