Roads now penetrate even the most remote parts of much of the world, but the majority of research on the effects of roads on biota has been in less remote temperate environments. The impacts of roads in semi-arid and arid areas may differ from these results in a number of ways. Here, we review the research on the impacts of roads on biodiversity patterns and ecological and evolutionary processes in semi-arid regions. The most obvious effect of roads is mortality or injury through collision. A diversity of scavengers are killed whilst feeding on roadkill, a source of easily accessed food. Noise pollution from roads and traffic interferes with vocal communication by animals, and birds and frogs living along noisy roads compensate for traffic noise by increasing the amplitude or pitch of their calls. Artificial light along roads impacts certain species’ ability to navigate, as well as attracting invertebrates. Animals are in turn attracted to invertebrates at streetlights, and vulnerable to becoming roadkill themselves. Genetics research across taxa confirms a loss of genetic diversity in small populations isolated by roads, but the long-term impact on the fitness of affected populations through a reduction in genetic diversity is not yet clear. Roads may rapidly cause genetic effects, raising conservation concerns about rare and threatened species. We assess mitigation measures and collate methods to identify the impact of roads on wildlife populations and their associated ecosystems, with a particular focus on recent advances.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited