All about the project Roadkill
Since September 2018 the team of the project Roadkill is working together with the TU Graz, BirdLife Austria, the Natural History Museum Vienna and the company pentamap mapping services on a project with the short name "AnimalProtect", which was supported by the FFG within the Austrian Space Application Program.
Animal vehicle collisions (AVC) or accidents involving non-huntable wildlife are a risk for humans and animal biodiversity which should not be underestimated due to the growing number of road kilometres in Europe. Considering huntable wildlife, more than 77,000 AVCs were counted in Austria in the season of 2015/16 (non-huntable wildlife is not included in this statistic). In 2016, 304 people were injured and one person even died as a result of the accident. Recently, several serious AVCs occurred in Austria, which also claimed human lives. In the United States there are up to 1.6 million AVCs per year with 200 people killed and several thousand people injured. The resulting total costs of these accidents are estimated at US $ 4.6 billion. Not only does AnimalProtect target serious accidents for humans, it also addresses the environmental problem of road killed birds or amphibians.
Worldwide only very few systematic studies on a national level investigating road-killed animals exists. Since monitoring road-killed animals on this level bears several challenges including large geographic areas and low persistence rates of carcasses resulting in time and personnel intensive monitoring approaches. However, nationwide investigations are necessary in order to be able to predict the danger to humans and animals on a large scale. The aim of the proposed project is to derive hazard zones for AVCs in the vicinity of roads using remote sensing data, expert knowledge and results from previous studies. Therefore, possible impact factors (land cover, terrain, phenological influences, environmental factors, socio-ecological factors, etc.) must be defined based on the behaviour of wild animals in order to subsequently transfer these information to potential data stocks like Copernicus data or Open Street Map (OSM) data. From this knowledge-based approach, risk areas for motorists and various animal species are to be derived. The validation of detected impact areas should be done with present vehicle accident data. In order to do so, interfaces to existing databases of wildlife accidents must be created and the data homogenized.
The hazard zones derived from remote sensing and geoinformation will be offered as a cloud based service that returns the risk of an AVC in a particular area (e.g. on a scale from one (lowest accident risk) to five (major accident risk)). Different users (car drivers, insurance companies, navigation services, public authorities, etc.) should draw corresponding conclusions (e.g. when building a new road). The use of the service should also be shown in the context of a software demonstrator, which indicates the corresponding hazard depending on the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) based position of the user and allows routing over low risk roads.
The United Nations adopted the Agenda2030 for Sustainable Development in October 2015, listing 17 goals and 169 targets. With this agenda, nothing less than the world is to be transformed and this in an economic, social and environmental dimension.
These Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are designed to stimulate action in areas of vital importance to humanity and the planet as a whole, from ending hunger and poverty to tackling climate change the promotion of peaceful, equitable and inclusive societies, to ensure economic, technical and social progress in harmony with nature.
We think that citizen science and the Roadkill project are particularly suitable for contributing to the achievement of specific goals.
We can imagine being able to contribute to the following goals with the Roadkill project:
This is an extremely complex target where we see especially our scientific work as essential by using the collected data and additional projects to analyse the influence of roads and road traffic on vertebrate animal populations, focusing on endangered species. Only with this knowledge can we set concrete and meaningful measures to reduce a possible negative impact of roads and road traffic.
By collecting data on roadkilled vertebrate species in general and species listed in the IUCN Red List (https://www.iucnredlist.org/) in particular, and by forwarding such data to public authorities project Roadkill can contribute to the indicator of SDG 15.5 “Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020 protect and prevent the extinction of protected species” and to SDG 15.9 “By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts” by providing data.
Of course, we are aware that through our project we can only make a small contribution to achieving global SDGs, but we would like to try our best to make our planet a bit more sustainable. In our view the cooperation of the public with representatives of science at eye level makes it possible to be able to reach the extremely complex global goals of the United Nations step by step from a local to a global level.
In Project Roadkill you can participate in a scientific project with the aim to reduce roadkill. In this project we investigate, which animals are killed on roads and which factors are influencing roadkills. Your data allows us to identify roadkill hotspots. Our vision is to mitigate those hotspots in cooperation with local authorities.
Roadkills are all animals killed on roads. In most countries, official data on roadkills are only available for huntable wildlife. In the year 2012, amongst others 24852 European hare, 36865 Roe deer, 1414 European badgers were killed on roads in Austria. However, there are no data available on the effects of roads on non-huntable wildlife or red list species such as European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) or European green toad (Bufo viridis).
Habitat fragmentation by roads has a severe impact on many animal species, particularly for those with high mobility or seasonal migration behaviour, such as mammals or amphibians. As a consequence, roadkill is one of the main reasons for the decrease of populations of several animal groups. Compared to a human flat, habitat fragmentation is like a road right in your corridor, seperating your living room from your kitchen.
Animals cross roads when foraging, in mating season (like deer, which cover long distances in search for a mating partner in autumn) or changing from winter to summer habitat (like amphibians). Species which migrate over long distances are especially affected by roadkill.
Humans are also affected by roadkill. For drivers animals on roads are a great danger and most people are stressed because of the ethical burden when killing an animal. Not only accidents with big animals like deer or wild boar are causing damages to persons and/or property, also small animals like hedgehogs or toads can lead to damage because of evasion or breaking maneuvers.
Our aim is to minimize the number of roadkills as much as possible by finding the influencing factors.
The first step is getting an overview of the numbers and distribution of roadkills. The use of citizen science makes it possible to investigate large areas and determine when (weather, season, ...), where (forest, urban area, field, ...) and on which streettype, what kind of animal species is killed.
The second step is to identify roadkill hotspots and mitigate those hotspots in cooperation with local authorities and NGOs.
Our vision is to warn drivers of roadkill hotspots (road sections with a high density of roadkills per year) according to location and season by implementing our data in satnavs.
With the project Roadkill, we want to sensitize participants to roadkill and habitat fragmentation and to include the public's expertise in when and where roadkills happen.
You can download and use the free App called Spotteron | Roadkill for your Android smartphone:
You can download and use the free App called Spotteron | Roadkill for your iOS smartphone:
You can use our online form.
In advance of using our App, you have to register or login. If you are on the road and find a dead animal, which was killed by a vehicle, just report it via App or online form. You can do this right at the location or you make yourself a note and report at home using your desktop computer.
Even now you can do a lot to avoid road kills. For example, it is a widespread misconception that amphibians survive by taking them "between the tires" with your car. Velocities over 30 km / h can already lead to the death of the amphibians, due to the vacuum under the car their lungs can burst.
If you want to be more active in the protection of frogs, toads, newts etc. on the road, you are sure to find an association near you which is working with amphibian protection fences along the roads and looks forward to your help. Contact your local museum to find out more about these associations.
Most road-kills with game animals happen during twilight, drive very carefully here and pay more attention to the edges of the road. The signs "Deer crossing" show particularly vulnerable spots and should be taken seriously, even if you have never seen a game there.
| Daniel Dörler
PhD student at the Institute of Zoology at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. Works since several years on citizen science in general and in particular on his thesis "Ecology and Control of Invasive Slugs: Interactions with Environmental Factors ans Soil Fauna".
Graduated in: Biology; Specialisation: Zoology
Role: Daniel is helping in all aspects of the project, from analysing data to writing reports.