Evaluation of circuit theory to predict optimal locations for wildlife crossing structures to maintain ecological processes and population level connectivity

Focus Area

Environmental Considerations in Planning








2-3 years

Research Idea Scope

Connectivity among populations and habitats is important for a range of ecological processes, including gene flow, migration between summer and winter range, demographic rescue, dispersal, range expansion, and population persistence. Long term viability of wildlife populations are threatened by decreasing population connectivity and by direct road mortality. Telemetry (GPS and VHF), expert opinion, allometric equations,and road surveys to map hotspots have all been used to identify potential wildlife road crossing sites but are data and labor intensive and limited to local scales. Circuit theory is a tool that could be employed to predict road crossing locations for multiple species, while evaluating landscape connectivity to maintain ecological processes(e.g. migratory pathways, gene flow). Using circuit theory to identify road crossing locations has revealed that as circuit model complexity increased the number and width of hotspots for wildlife crossings decreased and became more diffuse across the landscape. Circuit theory may be used to evaluate landscape connectivity for individual species and ecological processes but needs to be optimized in order to become a useful tool for transportation agencies to use in determining optimal locations for wildlife crossing structures to maintain landscape connectivity and ecological processes.

Urgency and Payoff

Benefits would include reduction in animal vehicle collisions estimated by the National Insurance Crime Bureau to cost insurance companies 1.7 million dollars between 2014-2017. Increased population level connectivity alleviating concerns of road impacts on various endangered species including the ocelot and Canada lynx.

Suggested By


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