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Mitigating the impacts of rainforest roads in Queensland’s Wet Tropics: Effective or are further evaluations and new mitigation strategies required?

Authors

  • Miriam Goosem

    1. Miriam Goosemis Principal Research Fellow, Centre of Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University (PO Box 6811, Cairns, Qld 4870, Australia; Tel: +61 7 40421467; Email: miriam.goosem1@jcu.edu.au).
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Abstract

Summary  Research into mitigation of the ecological impacts of rainforest roads in North Queensland has a long history, commencing during the formative years of Australian road ecology. In Queensland’s Wet Tropics and throughout Australia, installation of engineered structures to ameliorate ecological road impacts is now common during larger construction projects, but unusual in smaller road projects. Retro-fitting of engineering solutions to roads that are causing obvious impacts is also uncommon. Currently, Australian mitigation measures concentrate on two important impacts: road mortality and terrestrial habitat fragmentation. Unfortunately, other important ecological impacts of roads are seldom addressed. These include edge effects, traffic disturbance, exotic invasions and fragmentation of stream habitats. In North Queensland, faunal underpasses and canopy bridges across rainforest roads have been monitored over long periods. These structures are used frequently by multiple individuals of various species, implying effectiveness for movements and dispersal of many generalist and specialised rainforest animals. However, without addressing population and genetic implications, assessment of effectiveness of these connectivity structures is not holistic. These aspects need sufficient long-term funding to allow similar systematic monitoring before and after construction. Throughout Australia, more holistic approaches to mitigation of road impacts would routinely examine population and genetic connectivity, consider mitigation against more ecological impacts where appropriate and include landscape-scale replication.

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