Assessment of ecological passages along road networks within the Mediterranean forest using GIS-based multi criteria evaluation approach
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Major roads cause barrier effect and fragmentation on wildlife habitats that are suitable places for feeding, mating, socializing, and hiding. Due to wildlife collisions (Wc), human-wildlife conflicts result in lost lives and loss of biodiversity. Geographical information system (GIS)-based multi criteria evaluation (MCE) methods have been successfully used in short-term planning of road networks considering wild animals. Recently, wildlife passages have been effectively utilized as road engineering structures provide quick and certain solutions for traffic safety and wildlife conservation problems. GIS-based MCE methods provide decision makers with optimum location for ecological passages based on habitat suitability models (HSMs) that classify the areas based on ecological requirements of target species. In this study, ecological passages along Motorway 52 within forested areas in Mediterranean city of Osmaniye in Turkey were evaluated. Firstly, HSM coupled with nine eco-geographic decision variables were developed based on ecological requirements of roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) that were chosen as target species. Then specified decision variables were evaluated using GIS-based weighted linear combination (WLC) method to estimate movement corridors and mitigation points along the motorway. In the solution process, two linkage nodes were evaluated for eco-passages which were determined based on the leastcost movement corridor intersecting with the motorway. One of the passages was identified as a natural wildlife overpass while the other was suggested as underpass construction. The results indicated that computer-based models provide accurate and quick solutions for positioning ecological passages to reduce environmental effects of road networks on wild animals.