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Keywords:

  • gliding mammals;
  • highway median strips;
  • road barriers

Summary

Major roads and highways disrupt ecological flows and create barriers or filters to the movement of many species of wildlife, including gliding mammals. Mitigating these impacts presents major challenges for road authorities. One approach has been the retention of forest vegetation in median strips to serve as ‘stepping stones’ for gliding mammals to cross road gaps otherwise beyond their glide capacity. A recently upgraded section of the Pacific Highway through tall open forest near Bonville in north-east New South Wales retained forest within two 10- to 45-m-wide median strips separating each carriageway and a service road. We investigated whether Sugar Gliders (Petaurus breviceps) used these median strips to cross an 85 to 135 m-wide road corridor. Three radio-collared Sugar Gliders (one male and two females) moved between both highway medians and forest on either side of the road corridor during 32 days of radio-tracking. Although the sample size is small, these results suggest that highway median strips, featuring mature vegetation with a major den tree, can provide ‘stepping stones’ for gliding mammals to cross a highway that would otherwise function as a movement barrier or filter. Longer-term research with greater numbers of animals at this and other sites is required to determine whether such strips would be commonly used when den trees are absent and whether gliding via median strips may also increase road mortality of the species.