Abstract: Roads are a widespread and increasing feature of most landscapes. We reviewed the scientific literature on the ecological effects of roads and found support for the general conclusion that they are associated with negative effects on biotic integrity in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Roads of all kinds have seven general effects: mortality from road construction, mortality from collision with vehicles, modification of animal behavior, alteration of the physical environment, alteration of the chemical environment, spread of exotics, and increased use of areas by humans. Road construction kills sessile and slow‐moving organisms, injures organisms adjacent to a road, and alters physical conditions beneath a road. Vehicle collisions affect the demography of many species, both vertebrates and invertebrates; mitigation measures to reduce roadkill have been only partly successful. Roads alter animal behavior by causing changes in home ranges, movement, reproductive success, escape response, and physiological state. Roads change soil density, temperature, soil water content, light levels, dust, surface waters, patterns of runoff, and sedimentation, as well as adding heavy metals (especially lead), salts, organic molecules, ozone, and nutrients to roadside environments. Roads promote the dispersal of exotic species by altering habitats, stressing native species, and providing movement corridors. Roads also promote increased hunting, fishing, passive harassment of animals, and landscape modifications. Not all species and ecosystems are equally affected by roads, but overall the presence of roads is highly correlated with changes in species composition, population sizes, and hydrologic and geomorphic processes that shape aquatic and riparian systems. More experimental research is needed to complement post‐hoc correlative studies. Our review underscores the importance to conservation of avoiding construction of new roads in roadless or sparsely roaded areas and of removal or restoration of existing roads to benefit both terrestrial and aquatic biota.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Feb 1, 2000
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