Southern Ontario is home to some of the greatest biodiversity in Canada as well as the greatest human population and number of roads in Canada. An astounding 46 per cent of species at risk have felt the negative effects of roads. Over the next 20 years, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation will be extending expressways. The Toronto Zoo is helping to ensure these extensions will have a minimal impact on wildlife by using a geographic information system to predict which locations would have the highest number of interactions between motorists and at-risk wildlife (looking specifically at turtles and snakes) in southern Ontario.
Researchers at the Toronto Zoo used a geographic information system to look into the current and proposed Ontario highways (400-series roads) and develop a model of how they can impede or kill reptile species such as turtles, snakes and frogs. To help mitigate the threat of roads, the researchers created a Conservation Plan with the intention of helping to guide protocol and policy for transportation planning agencies, offer transportation alternatives (to avoid collisions with species at risk), limit the extent that habitat fragmentation occurs in natural areas, as well as address the barriers wildlife face due to current and proposed roads. To do this, they conducted road surveys to create and validate the model and to learn where these reptile species were getting hit. Next, researchers put in place methods to carry out a study comparing the mortality and barriers that reptile species faced before a highway was constructed as well as after its development following the Conservation Plan the researchers had put in place.