The street is a concrete jungle, Hector Lavoe echoed this in his famous latin song named Juanito Alimaña. This description falls short if we think about the current situation, where according to the World Health Organization, each year more than 1.27 million people die in traffic-related accidents and more than 90% of these deaths occur in developing countries.
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In Brazil, for example, the rate of pedestrian fatalities is 5.46 per 100,000 inhabitants. This trend seems to be growing hand in hand with the exponential increase in vehicles and roads.
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When we look at this numbers for impact on other species, the picture is even more frightening. Only in Australia, it is estimated that 7000 animals die every day, that is 2.55 million deaths per year!
Twice the human deaths globally and this is only in one country!
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But the bad news don’t stop here. Roadkill, as they called this type of deaths, is not the only negative effect of roads on biodiversity. Roads provide access to poachers and logging companies to remote areas, promote the colonization of alien species to new areas, have a major influence in the spread of diseases, and at the same time limit the movement of individuals within the habitat.
The situation is very worrying.
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The current estimate shows that roads are going to increase in 25 million kilometers this year (2015), with an all time increase of small secondary roads in areas of high diversity like tropical forests as part of infrastructure development beyond big cities.
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In a recent study, published in the Journal Biodiversity and Conservation, Andrew Whitworth and colleagues investigated the effect of these secondary roads in the Amazon. In their study they found that these roads affect biodiversity as much as larger roads, changing the values of richness and diversity of various groups such as amphibians, butterflies and birds, plants. A similar study in Italy by Marcantonio et al. demonstrated the adverse effects of roads but in natural reserves.
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The consequences that these changes may have on the structure and functioning of tropical forests are serious. Therefore it is essential to continue the efforts in order to identify, quantify and include roads impact on biological diversity in management and conservation plans for all ecosystems that are vital to our survival.
Version en español en: Verde Elemental