Natural landscapes are increasingly under anthropogenic pressures, and concern about human impacts on wildlife populations is becoming particularly relevant in the case of natural areas affected by roads. The expansion of road networks is considered among the main factors threatening biodiversity due to their potential for disturbing natural ecosystems on large scales. Indeed, traffic noise pollution reduces the quantity and the quality of natural habitats, and umbrella species are frequently used as indicators of natural ecosystem health. In this sense, there is a variety of GIS-based ecological modeling tools that allow evaluation of the factors that influence species distributions in order to accurately predict habitat selection. In this study, we have combined the use of noise modeling tools and maximum entropy modeling (MaxEnt) to evaluate the relative importance of environmental variables for Cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus
) nesting habitat selection within a mountainous forest in Spain. As a result, we found that spatial negative influence of roads on wildlife due to road traffic disturbance may have been traditionally overestimated when it has been inferred from distance measurements of wildlife behavior in road surroundings instead of from considering road traffic noise level exposure. In addition, we found a potential risk threshold for cinereous vulture breeding around roads, which ties in with a Leq24h
level of 40 dB(A). This may be a useful indicator for assessing the potential impact of human activities on an umbrella species such as, for instance, the cinereous vulture, whose breeding does not take place where road traffic Leq24h
levels are higher than 40 dB(A).
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