As someone who travels through a large section of the northern Great Plains, I have seen firsthand the impact our road system has on our nation's wildlife. One does not need to drive very far before encountering the remains of an animal, often an ungulate, killed by a vehicle. However, Roads and Ecological Infrastructure exhorts readers to consider the impact on "low profile animals," those whose normal standing position is less than one meter and particularly those less than 0.2 meters in height. The authors argue that these smaller animals (which include amphibians, turtles, reptiles, and small mammals) need attention because we know less about them, they are more sensitive to the increased mortality rates, and they are more vulnerable because they garner less concern from the public than larger, more charismatic animals. In short, the book summarizes our knowledge about mitigating road impacts on small animals, discusses research needs, and calls readers to advocate for their protection.
The book is superbly organized. The introduction sets the tone by justifying the need for this book and summarizing its content and approach. Chapter 1 reviews the history of small animal road ecology and the techniques used to reduce animal-road mortality. Chapter 2 summarizes the biological and behavioral characteristics of aquatic and terrestrial small animals with an eye for how roads present a challenge to them. The next chapters are essential, as they prepare readers to better appreciate how roads impact small animals through mortality (chapter 3) and changes to habitat (chapter 4).
In chapter 5, attention turns to human dimensions, namely how biologists can influence road construction projects by engaging the public. Chapters 6 and 7 explain the process for road construction as it is presently done in the United States, as well as how road projects are funded and wildlife protection is not. Throughout these chapters, the authors clearly explain the challenges facing biologists seeking to have road projects become more wildlife friendly. Fortunately, the authors sprinkle the reality with a few stories of successful projects.
Chapters 8 through 12 explore how to modify road construction to reduce the impacts on small animals. Chapter 8 looks at the siting process and provides a model for locating roads in less sensitive areas. Chapters 9 and 10 review specific ways to reduce road impacts on small animals at the site-specific level both before and after the road is completed. Chapters 11 and 12 discuss challenges that occur with road construction and maintenance as well as the need for surveys to ensure that the road adaptations are having the desired effect. The final chapter summarizes the book's content as well as highlights areas where further research is profoundly needed.
The book clearly fulfills its goal of summarizing the knowledge about mitigating road impacts on small animals. Teachers in the natural resource fields and, one hopes, the civil engineering fields should consider adding this book to their courses. Though the writing suffers from too many passive verbs and complex sentences, key concepts are explained with diagrams, tables, and real-life stories. In addition, each chapter concludes with a bulleted summary restating the key points of the chapter. Finally, though the early chapters contain many depressing facts, readers that persevere to the later chapters will find sufficient hope to encourage a steely-eyed optimism. [End Page 145]