Turning the threat into a solution: using roadways to survey cryptic species and to identify locations for conservation

James H. Baxter-Gilbert*, Julia L. Riley, Sean P. Boyle, David Lesbarrères, Jacqueline D. Litzgus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Freshwater turtles are one of the most imperilled groups of vertebrates globally, and roads have been associated with their decline. Although roads are typically viewed as an imminent threat to population persistence, because of direct mortality and increased landscape fragmentation, we argue that they are an important sampling tool for collecting a wide variety of data that can inform conservation efforts. Road surveys can yield important presence data when conducting species inventories, particularly for cryptic species, and can also indicate where to implement road mitigation measures. Our research examined three road survey methods from two previous studies (walking versus bicycling and walking versus driving) to test their relative effectiveness at locating turtles. We found that walking surveys yielded the highest number of turtles per kilometre however, bicycling and driving surveys also presented advantages (specifically, the ability to survey longer lengths of road more quickly). We recommend using walking surveys in areas of specific interest (e.g. to investigate suitable habitat for imperilled species or to investigate the presence of cryptic species), and bicycling or driving surveys between sections of specific interest. Road survey methods could be used in addition to more traditional sampling approaches (e.g. trapping and visual surveys), and do not need to be restricted to areas where roadwork projects are in progress or being planned. Road surveys could also be used during general environmental assessments and ecological research, to effectively incorporate turtle presence data into conservation efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-56
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian Journal of Zoology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • environmental assessment
  • mitigation
  • road ecology
  • road mortality
  • survey methods


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