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Application of Least-Cost Movement Modeling in Planning Wildlife Mitigation Measures along Transport Corridors: Case Study of Forests and Moose in Lithuania

Sciprofile linkJack Wierzchowski, Sciprofile linkAndrius Kučas, Sciprofile linkLinas Balčiauskas
Published: 21 September 2019
 by  MDPI
 in Forests
Forests , Volume 10; doi:10.3390/f10100831

Abstract: The present work presents the development of a moose movement model to explore the value of wildlife mitigation structures and examine how hypothetical changes in land use patterns could alter wildlife habitats at landscape scales. Collisions between vehicles and animals pose a threat to humans and wildlife populations, the most dangerous collisions being with moose. Migrations of moose are generally predictable and habitat-dependent. Here, we use GIS-based simulations of moose movements to examine road-related habitat fragmentation around the main highways A1 and A2 in Lithuania. From forest data, we develop a moose habitat suitability map. Then, by running multiple simulation iterations, we generate potential moose pathways and statistically describe the most efficient potential long-range movement routes that are based on the principles of habitat utilization. Reflecting the probabilities of cross-highway moose movement, ranks are assigned to all 1 km highway segments, characterizing them in terms of their likelihood of moose movement, and thus identifying discrete migration corridors and highway crossing zones. Bottlenecks are identified through simulation, such as where sections of wildlife fencing end without highway crossing structures, thereby creating a ‘spillover’ effect, i.e., moose moving parallel to the highway, then crossing. The tested model has proven the prognostic capacity of the tool to foresee locations of moose-vehicle collisions with high accuracy, thus allowing it to be a valuable addition to the toolbox of highway planners.
Keywords: Forest fragmentation / habitat suitability / roadkills / Moose Migrations

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