In many parts of the world, roadsides are regularly managed for traffic-safety reasons. Hence, there are similarities between roadsides and certain other managed habitats, such as wooded pastures and mown or grazed grasslands. These habitats have declined rapidly in Europe during the last century. For many species historically associated with them, roadsides may function as new primary habitats or as dispersal corridors in fragmented landscapes. Current recommendations for roadside management to promote conservation values are largely based on studies of plants in semi-natural grasslands, although such areas often differ from roadsides in terms of environmental conditions and disturbance regimes. Moreover, roadsides provide habitat not only for plants but also for many insects. For these reasons, stakeholders in Sweden have emphasised the need for more targeted management recommendations, based on actual studies of roadside biodiversity.
This systematic map provides an overview of the available evidence on how biodiversity is affected by various forms of roadside management, and how such management influences the dispersal of species along roads or roadsides. We searched for literature using 13 online publication databases, 4 search engines, 36 specialist websites and 5 literature reviews. Search terms were developed in English, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish. Identified articles were screened for relevance using criteria set out in a protocol. No geographical restrictions were applied, and all species and groups of organisms were considered. Descriptions of included studies are available in an Excel file, and also in an interactive GIS application that can be accessed at an external website.
Our searches identified more than 7000 articles. The 207 articles included after screening described 301 individual studies considered to be relevant. More than two-thirds of these studies were conducted in North America, with most of the rest performed in Europe. More than half of the studies were published in grey literature such as reports from agencies or consultants. The interventions most commonly studied were herbicide use, sowing and mowing, followed by soil amendments such as mulching and fertiliser additions. The outcomes most frequently reported were effects of interventions on the abundance or species richness of herbs/forbs, graminoids and woody plants. Effects on insects and birds were reported in 6 and 3% of the studies, respectively.
This systematic map is based on a comprehensive and systematic screening of all available literature on the effects of roadside management on biodiversity and dispersal of species. As such it should be of value to a range of actors, including managers and policymakers. The map provides a key to finding concrete guidance for conservation- and restoration-oriented roadside management from published research. However, the map also highlights important knowledge gaps: little data was found for some geographical regions, research is heavily biased taxonomically towards plants, and no study was found on how species dispersal was affected by roadside management. The map could therefore be a source of inspiration for new research.
Road ecology Roadside management Biodiversity Species dispersal Semi-natural grasslands Linear landscape elements Refugia
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