Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Canary in the Coal Mine


Back in October of 2008, BRT posted a blurb titled Road Noise, a piece about the fragmentation of the environment caused by roads and the negative impact they have had on wildlife. It seems roads have had an even deeper impact then what was written in Noise based on 2010 research done by Cornell University using the timber rattlesnake as a prime example of man's ever increasing influence on earth's environment.

Researchers discovered that fragmentation of natural habitats by roads -- even smaller, low-traffic highways -- has had a significant effect over the past 80 years on genetic structure of timber rattlesnakes in four separate regions of upstate New York. Less genetic diversity means populations become more susceptible to illness or environmental changes that threaten their survival.


"Our study adds to a growing body of literature indicating that even anthropogenic habitat modifications that does not destroy a large amount of habitat can create significant barriers to gene flow," said researchers.


While the rattlesnakes shorter lifespan and method of travel may help make the impact of roadways relatively quick and dramatic, the new findings reinforce earlier work on other terrestrial animals -- from grizzly bears to frogs -- and provides a fresh warning about habitat fragmentation that all plans for future human development must consider..


“We must become the change we want to see.” - Mahatma Gandhi
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