Revista de Biología Tropical ISSN Impreso: 0034-7744 ISSN electrónico: 2215-2075

Spatio-temporal variation of roadkills show mass mortality events for amphibians in a highly trafficked road adjacent to a national park, Costa Rica


amphibian mass-kill
animal-vehicle collisions
conservation areas
extinction threat
tropical forest.
amenaza de extinción
Áreas de conservación
bosque tropical
colisión de animales
mortalidad masiva de anfibios.

How to Cite

Arevalo, J. E., Honda, W., Arce-Arias, A., & Häger, A. (2017). Spatio-temporal variation of roadkills show mass mortality events for amphibians in a highly trafficked road adjacent to a national park, Costa Rica. Revista De Biología Tropical, 65(4), 1261–1276.


Roads have detrimental impacts on wildlife populations around the world. Specifically, roads pose direct and indirect threats to wildlife by limiting dispersal movements or through vehicle-related mortality. The rate of wildlife mortality varies both in time and space depending on the landscape composition and the type and use of road infrastructure. The objective of this study was to investigate spatiotemporal variation of vertebrate mortality in a 4km segment of the 34 national road, adjacent to Carara National Park, Costa Rica. We conducted 81 roadkill surveys by car and bicycle from June 2010 to May 2011, georeferenced the locations of the kills and identified them to the lowest possible taxonomic level. We recorded a total of 4 709 road-killed animals of at least 58 species of vertebrates during the whole study. Amphibians accounted for 93.5 % of all the vertebrate losses and showed strong spatiotemporal variation of mass mortality events. Reptiles, especially snakes, were the second most affected taxon followed by mammals and birds. Relative mortality per day in the 4 km segment was 125.4 amphibians, 4.6 reptiles, 2.7 mammals, 1 bird and 0.46 undetermined. Road proximity to the border of the park, traffic volumes and lack of enforcement of speed limits may influence the high rate of roadkills found. We suggest the reinforcement of speed limits, wildlife crossing signage and the retrofitting of the existing culverts as under passes for animals to minimize vertebrate mortality at the road adjacent to Carara National Park.


Alvez da Rosa, C., & Bager, A. (2012). Seasonality and habitat types affect roadkill of neotropical birds. Journal of Environmental Management, 97, 1-5.

Arévalo, J. E., & Newhard, K. (2011). Traffic Noise affects forest bird species in a protected tropical forest. Revista de Biología Tropical, 59, 969-980.

Ashley, E. P., & Robinson, J. T. (1996). Road mortality of amphibians, reptiles and other wildlife on the Long Point Causeway, Lake Erie, Ontario. Canadian Field Naturalist, 110, 404-412.

Barrientos, R., & Bolonio, L. (2009). The presence of rabbits adjacent to roads increases polecat road Mortality. Biodiversity and Conservation, 18, 405-418.

Barthelmess, E. L., & Brooks, M. S. (2010). The influence of body-size and diet on road-kill trends in mammals. Biodiversity and Conservation, 19, 1611-1629.

Bissonette, J. A. (2002). Scaling roads and wildlife: the Cinderella principle. Zeitschrift fur Jagdwissenschaft, 48, 208-214.

Brockie, R. (2007). Notes on New Zealand mammals 4. Animal road-kill “blackspots”. New Zealand Journal of Zoology, 34, 311-316.

Cáceres, N. C., Hannibal, W., Freitas, D. R., Silva, E. L., Roman, C., & Casella, J. (2010). Mammal occurrence and roadkill in two adjacent ecoregions (Atlantic Forest and Cerrado) in south-western Brazil. ZOOLOGIA, 5, 709-717.

Chase, L. C., Lee, D. R., Schulze, W. D., & Anderson, D. J. (1998). Ecotourism demand and differential pricing of National park access in Costa Rica. Land Economics, 74, 446 482.

Clarke, G. P., White, P. L. C., & Harris, S. (1998). Effects of roads on badger Meles meles populations in south-west England. Biological Conservation, 86, 117-124.

Clevenger, A. P., Chruszcz, B., & Gunson, K. E. (2001). Highway mitigation fencing reduces wildlife-vehicle collisions. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 29, 646-653.

Clevenger, A. P., Chruszcz, B., & Gunson, K. E. (2003). Spatial patterns and factors influencing small vertebrate fauna road-killed aggregations. Biological Conservation, 109, 15-26.

Coelho, I. P., Kindel, A., & Coelho, A. V. P. (2008). Roadkills of vertebrate species on two highways through the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve, southern Brazil. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 54, 689-699.

Coffin, A. W. (2007). From roadkill to road ecology: A review of the ecological effects of roads. Journal of Transport Geography, 15, 396-406.

Colchero, F., Conde, D. A., Manterola, C., Chávez, C., Rivera, A., & Ceballos, G. (2010). Jaguars on the move: modeling movement to mitigate fragmentation from road expansion in the Mayan Forest. Animal Conservation, 14, 158-166.

Costa, A. S., Ascensão, F., & Bager, A. (2015). Mixed sampling protocols improve the cost-effectiveness of roadkill Surveys. Biodiversity and Conservation, 24, 2953-2965.

Cushman, S. A. (2006). Effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on amphibians: A review and prospectus. Biological Conservation, 128, 231-240.

Develey, P. F., & Stouffer, P. C. (2001). Effects of roads on movements by understory birds in mixed-species flocks in central Amazonian Brazil. Conservation Biology, 15, 1416-1422.

Dodd Jr., C. K., Barichivich, W. J., & Smith, L. L. (2004). Effectiveness of a barrier wall and culverts in reducing wildlife mortality on a heavily traveled highway in Florida. Biological Conservation, 118, 619-631.

Elzanowski, A., Ciesiolkiewicz, J., Kaczor, M., Radwanska, J., & Urban, R. (2009). Amphibian road mortality in Europe: a meta-analysis with new data from Poland. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 55, 33-43.

Erickson, W. P., Johnson, G. D., & Young, D. P. Jr. (2005). A summary and comparison of bird mortality from anthropogenic causes with an emphasis on collisions. USDA Forest Service Gen Tech Rep. PSW-GTR-191, 1029-1042.

Fahrig, L., & Rytwinski, T. (2009). Effects of roads on animal abundance: an empirical review and synthesis. Ecology and Society, 14(1), 21.

Flaxman, S. M., & Lou, Y. (2009). Tracking prey their prey resource? Mechanisms of movements and optimal habitat selection by predators. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 256, 187-200.

Ford, A. T., & Fahrig, L. (2007). Diet and body size of North American mammal road mortality. Transportation Research Part D, 12, 498-505.

Forman, R. T. T., & Alexander L. E. (1998). Roads and their major ecological effects. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 29, 207-231.

Forman, R. T. T., Sperling, D., Bissonette, J., Clevenger, A., Cutshall, C., Dale, V., Fahrig, F., France, R., Goldman, C., Heanue, K., Jones, J., Swanson, F., Turrentine, T., & Winter, T. (2003). Road Ecology: Science and solutions. Washington D.C. USA: Island Press.

Glista, D. J., DeVault, L. E., & DeWoody, J. A. (2008). Vertebrate road mortality predominantly impacts amphibians. Herpetological Conservation & Biology, 3, 77-87.

González-Gallina, A., Benítez-Badillo, G., Rojas-Soto, O. R., & Hidalgo-Mihart, M. G. (2013). The small, the forgotten and the dead: highway impact on vertebrates and its implications for mitigation strategies. Biodiversity and Conservation, 22, 325-342.

Gouvea, R. (2004). Managing the ecotourism industry in Latin America: challenges and opportunities. Problems and Perspectives, 2, 1-9.

Groot Bruinderink, G. W. T. A., & Hazebroek, E. (1996). Ungulate traffic collisions in Europe. Conservation Biology, 10, 1059-1067.

Guinard, E., Julliard, R., & Barbraud, C. (2012). Motorways and bird traffic casualties: Carcasses surveys and scavenging bias. Biological Conservation, 147, 40-51.

Guyer, C., & Donnelly, M. A. (2005). Amphibians and reptiles of La Selva, Costa Rica, and the Caribbean Slope. London, England: University of California Press.

Hodson, N. L., & Snow, D. W. (1965). The road death enquiry, 1960-1961. Bird Study, 12, 90-98.

Holdridge, L. R. (1966). The life zone system. Adansonia, 6, 199-203.

Laurance, W. F., Goosem, M., & Laurance, G. W. (2009). Impacts of roads and linear clearings on tropical forest. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 24, 659-669.

Langen, T. A., Machniak, A., Crowe, E. K., Mangan, C., Marker, D. F., Liddle, N., & Roden, B. (2007). Methodologies for surveying herpetophauna mortality on rural highways. Journal of Wildlife Management, 71, 1361-1368.

Long, E. S., Diefenbach, D. R., Wallingford, D. B., & Rosenberry, C. S. (2010). Influence of roads, rivers and mountains on natal dispersal of White-Tailed Deer. Journal of Wildlife Management, 74, 1242-1249.

Mader, H. J., Schell, C., & Kornacker, P. (1990). Linear barriers to arthropod movements in the landscape. Biological Conservation, 54, 209-222.

Monge-Nágera, J. (1996). Vertebrate mortality on tropical Highways: The Costa Rican case. Vida Silvestre Neotropical, 5, 154-156.

Mumme, R. L., Schoech, S. J., Woolfenden, G. E., & Fitzpatrick, J. W. (2000). Life and death in the fast lane: Demographic consequences of road mortality in the Florida Scrub-Jay Conservation Biology, 14, 501-512.

Pagiola, S. (2008). Payments for environmental services in Costa Rica. Ecological Economics, 65, 712-724.

Pomareda, E. (2012). Una amenaza real de atropellos de animales silvestres.

Reid, F. A. (1997). A field guide to the mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.

Rodríguez-Castro, K. G., Ciocheti, G., Ribeiro, J. W., Ribeiro M. C., & Galetti, P. M. Jr. (2017). Using DNA barcode to relate landscape attributes to small vertebrate roadkill. Biodiversity and Conservation, 26, 1161-1178.

Rojas-Chacón, E. (2011). Atropello de vertebrados en una carretera secundaria en Costa Rica. Cuadernos de Investigación UNED, 3, 81-84.

Rytwinsky, T. & Fahrig, L. (2012). Do species life history traits explain population responses to roads? A meta-analysis. Biological Conservation, 147, 87-98.

Santos, S. M., Tiago-Marques, J., e Lourenço, A., Medinas, D., Barbosa, A. M., Beja, P., & Mira, A. (2015). Sampling effects on the identification of roadkill hotspots: Implications for survey design. Journal of Environmental Management, 162, 87-95.

Savage, J. M. (2002). The amphibians and reptiles of Costa Rica. Chicago, USA: The University of Chicago Press.

Silverman, B. W. (1986). Density estimation for statistics and data analysis. New York, USA: Chapman and Hall.

Slater, F. (2002). An assessment of wildlife road casualties-the potential discrepancy between numbers counted and numbers killed. Web Ecology, 3, 33-42.

Smith, L. L., & Dodd, C. K. (2003). Wildlife mortality on U.S. Highway 441 across Paynes Prairie, Alachua County, Florida. Florida Scientist, 66, 128-140.

Stiles, F. G., & Skutch, A. F. (1989). A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Ithaca, New York, USA: Cornell University.

Taylor, B. D., & Goldingay, R. L. (2010). Road and wildlife: impacts, mitigation and implications for wildlife management in Australia. Wildlife Research, 37, 320-331.

Teixeira, F. Z., Coelho, A. V. P., Esperandio, I. B., & Kindel, A. (2013). Vertebrate road mortality estimates: effects of sampling methods and carcass removal. Biological Conservation Journal, 157, 317-323.

Torres, M. L. (2011). Funcionalidad de estructuras subterráneas como pasos de fauna en la carretera Interamericana Norte que cruza el Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica (Tesis de Maestría). CATIE, Costa Rica.

Van der Ree, R., Smith, D. J., & Grilo, C. (2015). The ecological effects of linear infrastructure and traffic: challenges and opportunities of rapid global growth. In R. Van der Reed, D. J. Smith & C. Grilo (Eds.), The handbook of road ecology (pp. 1-9). U.K: Wiley Blackwell.

Van Langevelde, F., & Jaarsma, C. F. (2004). Using traffic flow theory to model traffic mortality in mammals. Land Ecology, 19, 895-907.

Wainwright, M. (2007). The mammals of Costa Rica. Ithaca, USA: Wiley Blackwell.



Download data is not yet available.