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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Little evidence of a road-effect zone for nocturnal, flying insects

Bhardwaj, Manisha; Soanes, Kylie; Lahoz-Monfort, Jose J.; Lumsden, Linda F.; van der Ree, Rodney


Roads and traffic may be contributing to global declines of insect populations. The ecological effects of roads often extend far into the surrounding habitat, over a distance known as the road-effect zone. The quality of habitat in the road-effect zone is generally degraded (e.g., due to edge effects, noise, light, and chemical pollution) and can be reflected in species presence, abundance, or demographic parameters. Road-effect zones have been quantified for some vertebrate species but are yet to be quantified for insects. Investigating the road-effect zone for insects will provide a better understanding of how roads impact ecosystems, which is particularly important given the role insects play as pollinators, predators, and prey for other species. We quantified the road-effect zone for nocturnal flying insects along three major freeways in agricultural landscapes in southeast Australia. We collected insects using light traps at six points along 2-km transects perpendicular to each highway (n = 17). We sorted the samples into order, and dried and weighed each order to obtain a measure of dry biomass. Using regression models within a Bayesian framework of inference, we estimated the change in biomass of each order with distance from the road, while accounting for environmental variables such as temperature, moon phase, and vegetation structure. The biomass of nine of the ten orders sampled did not change with distance from the freeway. Orthoptera (i.e., grasshoppers and crickets) was the only order whose biomass increased with distance from the freeway. From our findings, we suggest that the impacts of roads on insects are unlikely extending into the surrounding landscape over a distance of 2 km. Therefore, if there are impacts of roads on insects, these are more likely to be concentrated at the road itself, or on finer taxonomic scales such as family or genus level.


avoidance; biomass; habitat degradation; impacts of roads; invertebrates; orthopteran; predator-prey interactions; road ecology

Published in

Ecology and Evolution
2019, Volume: 9, number: 1, pages: 65-72
Publisher: WILEY

    Sustainable Development Goals

    Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
    Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

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