Dr. Marcel Huijser
Road ecology has made substantial advances over the last few decades. Our knowledge has increased and mitigation measures to reduce the impacts of roads and traffic on wildlife are now widespread and implemented regularly. In many cases, the mitigation measures address human safety through reducing collisions with large mammals, provide safe crossing opportunities for wildlife, and it can even make economic sense to implement these mitigation measures. These successes may be reason to celebrate, but it may also be time for us to think about whether we are missing something, where we need to do a better job. While road projects are typically linear in nature, the needs of wildlife need to be addressed based on a landscape level approach. Crossing structures for wildlife are no good if there is no suitable wildlife habitat nearby. In some cases, this means protecting existing habitat patches close to wildlife crossing opportunities. In other cases, it may mean restoring habitat close to highways or creating suitable corridors between habitat patches and safe crossing opportunities. And while the focus of many highway mitigation measures is with the movements of large wild mammals, we also need to address the needs of smaller species that may not be able to move over long distances. For these species we need food, water, and cover every step of the way as it may take them days or weeks to cross to the other side of the road. In other words, we need a shift from providing safe crossing opportunities for large mammals to restoring habitat connectivity for a wide range of species groups and perhaps even allowing physical ecosystem processes to continue between the two sides of a highway. In summary, road ecology cannot be effective without applying the principles of restoration ecology and landscape ecology. And if habitat restoration is to succeed on a landscape level, restoration and landscape ecology can benefit from road ecology. Speaker bio: Dr. Marcel Huijser received his MSc in population ecology (1992) and his PhD. in road ecology (2000) at Wageningen University in The Netherlands. He studied plant-herbivore interactions in wetlands for the Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management (1992-1995), hedgehog traffic victims and mitigation strategies in an anthropogenic landscape for the Dutch Society for the Study and Conservation of Mammals (1995-1999), and multi-functional land use issues on agricultural lands for the Research Institute for Animal Husbandry at Wageningen University and Research Centre (1999-2002). Since 2002, Marcel works on wildlife-transportation issues for the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University. Finally, Marcel is a visiting professor at the University of São Paulo in Brazil where he has been teaching road ecology on a regular basis since 2014.
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