Ontario Road Ecology Group - Protecting biodiversity from the threat of roads

Posted: June 6, 2013 - 09:46 , by Brennan Caverhill
Categories: 
Biodiversity, Natural History, From the Field, Research | Comments (3) | Comment
Ontario Road Ecology Group Logo
Authored by Mandy Karch
 
Over 14,000 wildlife vehicle collisions are reported in Ontario.  This number mainly reflects collisions with large wildlife (moose, deer).  Many thousands more unreported collisions occur with small wildlife (snakes, frogs, turtles) and the threats of roads for some of these populations are driving them to extinction.
 
Road ecology is the study of the interactions between roads and the environment. The Ontario Road Ecology Group (OREG) was established in 2009 and has been working to protect biodiversity from the threats of roads through research, policy and stewardship initiatives with our partners.  
 
Heart Lake wetland complex, bisected by roads in Brampton, Ontario.
 
Heart Lake Road in Brampton, Ontario bisects Provincially Significant Wetland complexes and wildlife habitat. Traffic volume on the road will increase with urban development. In 2011 OREG, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), City of Brampton, local businesses and over 40 community volunteers partnered to execute the Heart Lake Road Ecology Volunteer Monitoring Project.  
 
A group of people working together to protect wetlands in the Heart Lake Conservation Area
 
The data collected (i.e. 1239 fatalities in a 6 month period on a 2 km stretch of road) supported that Heart Lake Road in the study site between Sandalwood Parkway and Mayfield Road is a hotspot for wildlife road mortality. Project partners were in agreement that mitigation was necessary to protect local biodiversity and Species at Risk (Snapping Turtles).
 
Snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) sitting on the roadside. The turtle is perhaps a female, getting ready to lay her eggs. She is in danger of getting hit by cars.
 
In 2013 we are conducting a pilot fencing and ecopassage study to determine the best mitigation strategy for this road that has unique ecological (surrounding Provincially Significant Wetland) and engineering (the road is sinking due to being constructed through wetland habitat) considerations. The results of this study will inform how to best proceed with permanent mitigation on this and other roads throughout the province.
 

Two people stand beside an ecopassage, designed to facilitate wildlife crossing under roads.

Comments

Comment by amelia

So thankful for the Ontario Road Ecology Group and the work they are doing. There is a new gun range and new road to the facility proposed in our area. The new road will cross EP wetlands that form part of white lake wetland complex, where species at risk and threatened species are found. Very sad. The conservation authority has limited power and the local municipality only interested in the commercial taxes. Looking forward to your completed study and learn about the best mitigation method. Thank you.

Comment by Judith Smith Felton

What an interesting initiative. Congratulations to those participating and making a critter difference.

Comment by Phil Goodwin

Saw a snapping turtle attempting to cross Aurora side road, just west of Kennedy on Sunday Aug 31 2014, afternoon about 2p. The snapper was a big one and was moving north to south. There was a car pulled over to the side of the road, on the north shoulder, maybe there to help the turtle.