Road Kill Hurting Ecosystems
Photo credit: Marissa Rose Rocke Road Kill Series
This blog post is by no means suggesting that we should stop driving or building new roads, rather it is merely raising awareness of the fact that our ecosystems are continuing to degrade. Sometimes there are very few practical solutions to some of the problems we have, but it does not mean we should be ignorant of the problems.
Road Kill Hurting Ecosystems
Scientists estimate that one-third of amphibian species are threatened, and hundreds of species have gone extinct in the past two decades alone. The reasons are habitat loss, disease, pollution, competition from introduced exotic species and climate change. Well now road kill can be added on that list.
Frogs, toads, and salamanders are all amphibians that serve vital roles in many ecosystems. They are consumers of insects and a food source for carnivores. To maintain healthy ecosystems it is important to limit the deaths of amphibians. The bottom line is that road kill is hurting ecosystems left and right which could lead to a total ecosystem breakdown.
A main location of these incidents is a one mile stretch road with wetlands surrounding it in West Lafayette, Indiana. During a 17 month study researchers found 10,500 dead animals along 11 miles of roads. Of those 7,600 were frogs of unidentifiable species and another 1,700 were bullfrogs.
A recent study published showed that the number of animals killed were significantly underestimated because they were scavenged by other animals, destroyed beyond recognition or moved. About five times more animals died than could be recorded. The dead included 142 road killed eastern tiger salamanders which doesn’t seem like a lot but most of them were up to 10 years old or females bearing eggs on the their way to making an annual trip to their breeding grounds where they often lay 500 to 1,000 eggs. This could make a big difference for the population. Researchers also found 74 dead northern leopard frogs, a species of special conservation concern in Indiana. Other animals were involved in this study which included:
- 79 opossums, the most common mammal
- chimney swifts, the most common bird
- common garter snakes, the most common reptile
- white tailed deer
These roads are literally having an environmental impact! Scientists believe there are options to help this problem like underpasses, viaducts, overpasses to allow wildlife safe crossing and special fences will help. Habitats like wetlands and rain forests are declining and this is just one more problem that isn’t going to fix itself unless some action is taken.
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