Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: The Road


Human-mediated dispersal is known as an important driver of long-distance dispersal for plants but underlying mechanisms have rarely been assessed. Road corridors function as routes of secondary dispersal for many plant species but the extent to which vehicles support this process remains unclear. In this paper we quantify dispersal distances and seed deposition of plant species moved over the ground by the slipstream of passing cars. We exposed marked seeds of four species on a section of road and drove a car along the road at a speed of 48 km/h. By tracking seeds we quantified movement parallel as well as lateral to the road, resulting dispersal kernels, and the effect of repeated vehicle passes. Median distances travelled by seeds along the road were about eight meters for species with wind dispersal morphologies and one meter for species without such adaptations. Airflow created by the car lifted seeds and resulted in longitudinal dispersal. Single seeds reached our maximum measuring distance of 45 m and for some species exceeded distances under primary dispersal. Mathematical models were fit to dispersal kernels. The incremental effect of passing vehicles on longitudinal dispersal decreased with increasing number of passes as seeds accumulated at road verges. We conclude that dispersal by vehicle airflow facilitates seed movement along roads and accumulation of seeds in roadside habitats. Dispersal by vehicle airflow can aid the spread of plant species and thus has wide implications for roadside ecology, invasion biology and nature conservation.

Concepts: Plant, Transport, Seed, Walking, Vehicle, Automobile, The Road, Seed dispersal


Roads are a potential threat to bat conservation. In addition to the direct risk of collision of bats with vehicles, roads could pose a threat to bat populations as a result of habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, and could act as barriers to movements of bats between habitats.We performed a systematic review of the literature and conducted meta-analyses to assess the threat posed by roads to bats as a result of 1) collisions between bats and vehicles and 2) roads acting as barriers to movements of bats.Based on collated records of 1207 bat road casualties in Europe, we found that low-flying species are more prone to collisions than high-flying species, and that juveniles are more vulnerable to collisions than adults. In addition, meta-analysis identified a significant bias towards male casualties. Casualties included rare species such as Barbastella barbastellus and geographically restricted species such as Rhinolophus species.The bias towards male casualties could be indicative of greater natal philopatry or lower dispersal among females, or of sexual segregation in habitats of varying quality, i.e. females may occupy better quality habitats than males, and road density may be lower in better quality habitats.Whether or not roads act as barriers to the movement of bats depends on a complex interplay of habitat and species-specific behaviour. For example, the presence of favourable habitat for bats - notably woodland - was found in this review to be linked with significantly reduced barrier effects but a heightened risk of collision.Our data suggest that roads do pose a threat to bats. Future research should assess the contribution of traffic noise and street lighting to the barrier effect of roads. Where new road schemes are monitored by ecological practitioners, it is vital that consistent protocols are employed to ensure that bat activity can be compared before and after the road is built. Evidence from such research should be used to minimize the risks for bats of any roads built in the future, and to design safe crossing points for bats.

Concepts: Male, Habitat, Female, Systematic review, Gender, Sex, Meta-analysis, The Road


Major roads can reduce bat abundance and diversity over considerable distances. To mitigate against these effects and comply with environmental law, many European countries install bridges, gantries or underpasses to make roads permeable and safer to cross. However, through lack of appropriate monitoring, there is little evidence to support their effectiveness. Three underpasses and four bat gantries were investigated in northern England. Echolocation call recordings and observations were used to determine the number of bats using underpasses in preference to crossing the road above, and the height at which bats crossed. At gantries, proximity to the gantry and height of crossing bats were measured. Data were compared to those from adjacent, severed commuting routes that had no crossing structure. At one underpass 96% of bats flew through it in preference to crossing the road. This underpass was located on a pre-construction commuting route that allowed bats to pass without changing flight height or direction. At two underpasses attempts to divert bats from their original commuting routes were unsuccessful and bats crossed the road at the height of passing vehicles. Underpasses have the potential to allow bats to cross roads safely if built on pre-construction commuting routes. Bat gantries were ineffective and used by a very small proportion of bats, even up to nine years after construction. Most bats near gantries crossed roads along severed, pre-construction commuting routes at heights that put them in the path of vehicles. Crossing height was strongly correlated with verge height, suggesting that elevated verges may have some value in mitigation, but increased flight height may be at the cost of reduced permeability. Green bridges should be explored as an alternative form of mitigation. Robust monitoring is essential to assess objectively the case for mitigation and to ensure effective mitigation.

Concepts: Animal echolocation, Bat, Road, Flight, Flying and gliding animals, Microbat, The Road, Bats


Roadways pose serious threats to animal populations. The installation of roadway mitigation measures is becoming increasingly common, yet studies that rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of these conservation tools remain rare. A highway expansion project in Ontario, Canada included exclusion fencing and ecopassages as mitigation measures designed to offset detrimental effects to one of the most imperial groups of vertebrates, reptiles. Taking a multispecies approach, we used a Before-After-Control-Impact study design to compare reptile abundance on the highway before and after mitigation at an Impact site and a Control site from 1 May to 31 August in 2012 and 2013. During this time, radio telemetry, wildlife cameras, and an automated PIT-tag reading system were used to monitor reptile movements and use of ecopassages. Additionally, a willingness to utilize experiment was conducted to quantify turtle behavioral responses to ecopassages. We found no difference in abundance of turtles on the road between the un-mitigated and mitigated highways, and an increase in the percentage of both snakes and turtles detected dead on the road post-mitigation, suggesting that the fencing was not effective. Although ecopassages were used by reptiles, the number of crossings through ecopassages was lower than road-surface crossings. Furthermore, turtle willingness to use ecopassages was lower than that reported in previous arena studies, suggesting that effectiveness of ecopassages may be compromised when alternative crossing options are available (e.g., through holes in exclusion structures). Our rigorous evaluation of reptile roadway mitigation demonstrated that when exclusion structures fail, the effectiveness of population connectivity structures is compromised. Our project emphasizes the need to design mitigation measures with the biology and behavior of the target species in mind, to implement mitigation designs in a rigorous fashion, and quantitatively evaluate road mitigation to ensure allow for adaptive management and optimization of these increasingly important conservation tools.

Concepts: Turtle, Reptile, Road, Freeway, Infrastructure, Motorway, Amniote, The Road


Urbanisation is a fundamental phenomenon whose quantitative characterisation is still inadequate. We report here the empirical analysis of a unique data set regarding almost 200 years of evolution of the road network in a large area located north of Milan (Italy). We find that urbanisation is characterised by the homogenisation of cell shapes, and by the stability throughout time of high-centrality roads which constitute the backbone of the urban structure, confirming the importance of historical paths. We show quantitatively that the growth of the network is governed by two elementary processes: (i) ‘densification’, corresponding to an increase in the local density of roads around existing urban centres and (ii) ‘exploration’, whereby new roads trigger the spatial evolution of the urbanisation front. The empirical identification of such simple elementary mechanisms suggests the existence of general, simple properties of urbanisation and opens new directions for its modelling and quantitative description.

Concepts: Scientific method, Robert Duvall, Metaphysics, Road, The Road, Urban design, Early Islamic philosophy, Urban studies and planning


The evolution of infrastructure networks such as roads and streets are of utmost importance to understand the evolution of urban systems. However, datasets describing these spatial objects are rare and sparse. The database presented here represents the road network at the french national level described in the historical map of Cassini in the 18th century. The digitization of this historical map is based on a collaborative methodology that we describe in detail. This dataset can be used for a variety of interdisciplinary studies, covering multiple spatial resolutions and ranging from history, geography, urban economics to network science.

Concepts: Geography, Social sciences, Road, Street, 18th century, Infrastructure, The Road, Civil engineering


An estimated 80 million birds are killed by colliding with vehicles on U. S. roads each year [1], and millions more die annually in Europe [2] and elsewhere. Losses to vehicles are a serious problem for which various changes in roadway design and maintenance have been proposed [3]. Yet, given the magnitude of the mortality reported for some species [4], we might expect natural selection to favor individuals that either learn to avoid cars or that have other traits making them less likely to collide with vehicles. If so, the frequency of road kill should decline over time. No information is available for any species on whether the extent of road-associated mortality has changed [2]. During a 30-year study on social behavior and coloniality of cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) in southwestern Nebraska, we found that the frequency of road-killed swallows declined sharply over the 30 years following the birds' occupancy of roadside nesting sites and that birds killed on roads had longer wings than the population at large.

Concepts: Transport, Walking, Road, The Road, Cliff Swallow


Malaria is a significant public health threat in the Brazilian Amazon. Previous research has shown that deforestation creates breeding sites for the main malaria vector in Brazil, Anopheles darlingi, but the influence of selective logging, forest fires, and road construction on malaria risk has not been assessed. To understand these impacts, we constructed a negative binomial model of malaria counts at the municipality level controlling for human population and social and environmental risk factors. Both paved and unpaved roadways and fire zones in a municipality increased malaria risk. Within the timber production states where 90% of deforestation has occurred, compared with areas without selective logging, municipalities where 0-7% of the remaining forests were selectively logged had the highest malaria risk (1.72, 95% CI 1.18-2.51), and areas with higher rates of selective logging had the lowest risk (0.39, 95% CI 0.23-0.67). We show that roads, forest fires, and selective logging are previously unrecognized risk factors for malaria in the Brazilian Amazon and highlight the need for regulation and monitoring of sub-canopy forest disturbance.

Concepts: Malaria, Brazil, Rainforest, Road, Negative binomial distribution, The Road, Deforestation, Logging


Despite the spread of road infrastructures throughout Africa to support regional development, industry, and tourism, few studies have examined how wild animals adapt their behavior and ecology in road-forest ecotones. Indeed, while numerous studies have demonstrated chimpanzee adaptability in anthropogenic landscapes, none have examined the effects of asphalted highways on wild chimpanzee behaviors. In a 29-month survey, we assessed the dangers posed by an asphalted road crossing the Sebitoli area of Kibale National Park (Uganda). We analyzed 122 individual chimpanzee crossings. Although the asphalted road represents a substantial threat to crossing animals (89 motorized vehicles per hour use this road and individuals of six different primate species were killed in 1 year), chimpanzees took into account this risk. More than 90% of the individuals looked right and left before and while crossing. Chimpanzees crossed in small subgroups (average 2.7 subgroups of 2.1 individuals per crossing event). Whole parties crossed more rapidly when chimpanzees were more numerous in the crossing groups. The individuals most vulnerable to the dangers of road crossing (females with dependents, immature, and severely injured individuals) crossed less frequently compared with non-vulnerable individuals (lone and healthy adolescents and adults). Moreover, healthy adult males, who were the most frequent crossing individuals, led progressions more frequently when crossing the road than when climbing or descending feeding trees. Almost 20% of the individuals that crossed paid attention to conspecifics by checking on them or waiting for them while crossing. These observations are relevant for our understanding of adaptive behavior among chimpanzees in human-impacted habitats. Further investigations are needed to better evaluate the effects of busy roads on adolescent female dispersal and on their use of territories. Mitigation measures (e.g., bridges, underpasses, reduced speed limits, speed-bumps, signposts, or police controls) should be established in this area. Am. J. Primatol. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Human, Male, Female, Sex, Road, The Road, Crossing, Cormac McCarthy


Road barrier effect is among the foremost negative impacts of roads on wildlife. Knowledge of the factors responsible for the road barrier effect is crucial to understand and predict species' responses to roads, and to improve mitigation measures in the context of management and conservation. We built a set of hypothesis aiming to infer the most probable cause of road barrier effect (traffic effect or road surface avoidance), while controlling for the potentially confounding effects road width, traffic volume and road age. The wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus was used as a model species of small and forest-dwelling mammals, which are more likely to be affected by gaps in cover such as those resulting from road construction. We confront genetic patterns from opposite and same roadsides from samples of three highways and used computer simulations to infer migration rates between opposite roadsides. Genetic patterns from 302 samples (ca. 100 per highway) suggest that the highway barrier effect for wood mouse is due to road surface avoidance. However, from the simulations we estimated a migration rate of about 5% between opposite roadsides, indicating that some limited gene flow across highways does occur. To reduce highway impact on population genetic diversity and structure, possible mitigation measures could include retrofitting of culverts and underpasses to increase their attractiveness and facilitate their use by wood mice and other species, and setting aside roadside strips without vegetation removal to facilitate establishment and dispersal of small mammals.

Concepts: Gene, Biology, Population genetics, Freeway, Infrastructure, Motorway, Autobahn, The Road