A conceptual framework for understanding, assessing, and mitigating ecological effects of forest roads

Project description (English)

Abstract: A review of road-ecology literature suggests that impacts of forest roads on species and ecosystems begin during the road construction phase, but persist and accumulate well after a road is no longer in use. Over this time, impacts stemming originally from construction, but then also from the continued physical presence and human use of the road, follow complex multiple pathways ending in diminished species persistence. Yet in practice, road-impact considerations rarely extend beyond short-term issues related to road construction or beyond the spatial extent of the road corridor. Even when the range of potential impacts is recognized, managers rarely have a framework for assessing those impacts. This can be problematic, as informed decisions regarding the long-term, wide-ranging ecological consequences of road placement, design, and use can lessen the degree to which a road modifies the composition, structure, and function of forest ecosystems. This paper presents a conceptual framework for organizing, synthesizing, and applying our growing understanding of how roads affect forest ecosystems. The framework includes two parts: (1) a series of impact-hypothesis diagrams wherein ecological impacts are organized relevant to three phases of road existence: construction, presence and use; and (2) a five-step approach whereby ecological impact and road importance can be evaluated and a decision matrix used to determine appropriate mitigation strategies. Highlights of a case study conducted in southwestern Nova Scotia are presented to illustrate the applicability of the framework. Environmental Reviews, 2010, 18(NA): 61-86, https://doi.org/10.1139/A10-002

Project description (French)

Main contact organization for the project

Dalhousie University

Partner organization(s)

Dalhousie University

Part of larger network(s)

Project status


Date of completion


Primary ecosystem focus


Connectivity action

Research (Conceptual understanding of connectivity)

Standard keywords

Transportation (roads, rails, bridges, culverts)


Landscape Fragmentation

Road Ecology

Geographical coverage


Nova Scotia

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