Road network in human-dominated landscape: Habitat, corridor or barrier for small mammals? Acta Oecologica 62: 58-65

If the negative effects of road networks on biodiversity are now recognized, their role as barriers, habitats or corridors remain to be clarified in human altered landscapes in which road verges often constitute the few semi-natural habitats where a part of biodiversity important forecosystem functioningmay maintain. In human-dominated landscape, their roles are crucial to precise in comparison to other habitats for small mammal species considered as major natural actors(pests (voles) or biological control agents (shrew)). 

We studied these roles through the comparison of small mammal abundance captured (418 individuals belonging to 8 species) using non-attractive pitfall traps (n = 864) in 176 sampled sites distributed in marginal zones of road and crop, in natural areas and in fields. We examined the effect of roadside width and isolation of sites.

We found the higher small mammal abundances in roadside verges and an effect of width margins for Shrews. The significant effect of the distance to the next adjacent natural habitat at the same side of the road on the relative abundance of S. coronatus, and the absence of a significant effect of distance to the next natural habitat at the opposite side of road, suggest that highway and road verges could be used as corridor for their dispersal, but have also a barrier effect for shrews. Our results show that in intensive agricultural landscapes roadside and highway verges may often serve as refuge, habitat and corridor for small mammals depending on species and margin characteristics.

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