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Wildlife Tunnel Enhances Population Viability

Year of publication2009
Author(s)Rodney van der Ree
Co-authorsDean Heinze, Michael McCarthy, Ian Mansergh
PublisherResilience Alliance
JournalEcology and Society
Magazine No.Volume 14, Issue 2, December 2009
Roads and traffic are pervasive components of landscapes throughout the world: they cause wildlife mortality, disrupt animal movements, and increase the risk of extinction. Expensive engineering solutions, such as overpasses and tunnels, are increasingly being adopted to mitigate these effects. Although some species readily use such structures, their success in preventing population extinction remains unknown. Here, we use population viability modeling to assess the effectiveness of tunnels for the endangered Mountain Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus) in Australia. The underpasses reduced, but did not completely remove, the negative effects of a road. The expected minimum population size of a “reconnected” population remained 15% lower than that of a comparable “undivided” population. We propose that the extent to which the risk of extinction decreases should be adopted as a measure of effectiveness of mitigation measures and that the use of population modeling become routine in these evaluations.