Short-term movements and behaviour govern the use of road mitigation measures by a protected amphibian

Matos, C.; Petrovan, S. O.; Wheeler, Philip and Ward, A. I. (2019). Short-term movements and behaviour govern the use of road mitigation measures by a protected amphibian. Animal Conservation, 22(3) pp. 285–296.



Road mitigation infrastructure for pond‐breeding amphibians aims to provide a safe and sustainable passage for individuals between critical habitat patches. However, relatively little is known about how amphibians interact with mitigation systems because of the challenges of documenting movements at sufficiently large sample sizes. The effect of real or perceived barriers to short‐term movement could ultimately determine the success or failure of road mitigation schemes. We quantified behavioural responses of the protected great crested newt Triturus cristatus in a complex road mitigation system in the UK. We used fluorescent paint to mark individuals in order to measure distance travelled and trajectory orientation over two seasons (spring when adults migrate to breeding ponds and autumn when newts disperse) and in three components of the mitigation system (fences, tunnel entrances and inside the tunnels). A total of 250 juveniles and 137 adult great crested newts were marked and tracked during 38 survey nights. Adults were individually identified using belly‐pattern recognition. There was substantially greater activity along the fences during autumn (82% of newt captures) compared to spring. Triturus cristatus typically moved short distances each night (3.21 m per night in spring and 6.72 m per night in autumn), with a maximum of 25.6 m travelled inside a tunnel. Adult recapture rates were low (9.7%) and only 3% of the newts found along the fences reached the tunnel entrances. Movements were straighter in spring and inside the tunnels and newts had higher crossing rates in autumn compared to spring. Overall, behaviour and seasonal movement patterns significantly influenced the use of the mitigation system, in a way that could impact landscape connectivity for T. cristatus over the long‐term. Adequate incorporation of fine‐scale movement dynamics could help develop new behavioural models, inform our understanding of amphibian ecology and substantially improve future road mitigation projects.

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