Impact of roads: Peter Byrnes

James Cook University (JCU) PhD student Peter Byrnes, a recipient of Skyrail Rainforest Foundation student funding, first received funding for his project - "Impact of roads on medium-sized, ground-dwelling rainforest mammals in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area", in 2007. He was later awarded funding in both 2008 and 2009 and has been the only Skyrail Rainforest Foundation student funded project to receive funding for three consecutive years.

His project is expected to aid in management decisions regarding a wide range of rainforest mammals, both within Australia and globally, on the impact of roads on rainforest mammals.This includes the Musky Rat-kangaroo (Hypsiprymnodon moschatus), Long-nosed Bandicoot (Perameles nasuta), Northern Brown Bandicoot (Isoodon macrourus) and Giant White-tailed Rat (Uromys caudimaculatus). These species represent a wide spectrum of habitat specialisations and behavioural attributes. The Musky Rat-kangaroo, in particular, is poorly understood. It is ecologically and evolutionarily significant, as a restricted endemic important in the dispersal of many rainforest fruits and as the potential ancestral link between possums and kangaroos.

Road ecology is a newly emerging field of science which examines how roads interact with, and affect the habitats surrounding them. This project was designed to advance both the theoretical and practical knowledge-base of this newly emerging field.

The outcomes will be relevant to a wide range of stakeholders, including government departments, environmental consultants and developers such as; road effects on animal abundance, avoidance and movement; whether roads act as barriers to their movement and dispersal and how this compares to a natural barrier (creek); the impact of traffic noise on their behaviour and movement; and whether roads affect the health of the animal.