GUEST ARTICLE: INVESTIGATING IMPACTS

Manisha Bhardwaj, Postdoctoral Researcher, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, manisha.bhardwaj@slu.se

The ecological impacts of roads and railways on wildlife can be far-reaching and detrimental. For example, transportation infrastructure contributes to habitat loss and fragmentation, where animals are impeded from travelling through their environment without avoiding transportation infrastructure or the mortality risks involved in crossing roads and railways. In addition, habitat quality adjacent to roads can be compromised as noise and light from traffic and streetlights spill into the surroundings. These impacts, individually and cumulatively, can have devastating effects on wildlife, reducing their ability to persist in landscapes. These are the types of implications I study.

My name is Manisha Bhardwaj. I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, investigating the impacts of the built environment and human activity on wildlife populations. My interests include understanding how anthropogenic activities impact the ecology and behaviour of animals. I am particularly interested in the roles noise and light pollution play in wildlife populations’ persistence and how animals respond to these stresses behaviourally. In addition, I enjoy exploring human-wildlife interactions and the interconnectedness between our activities as people, the landscapes we occupy, and the landscapes needed for wildlife.

My interest in road and railway ecology has brought me fruitful and fulfilling collaborations with the EWT, particularly with the Wildlife and Transport Programme. Together with Wendy Collinson and Paul Allin from Transfrontier Africa, we are investigating the impacts of railways on wildlife in the Greater-Kruger National Park Region in the first formal South African railway ecology programme. Our project brings together NGOs, researchers, and managers to address the impacts of railways on native fauna such as Elephants, Hyaena, Wild Dogs, and Impalas. We have investigated where and when wildlife cross railways and collisions occur, how effective mitigation strategies can be to reducing the rate of collisions, and how animals react to oncoming trains. With this project, we will provide insights into this issue to reduce the overall impacts on South Africa’s wildlife.