Habitat loss is known to be the main cause of the current global decline in biodiversity, and roads are thought to affect the persistence of many species by restricting movement between habitat patches. However, measuring the effects of roads and habitat loss separately means that the configuration of habitat relative to roads is not considered. We present a new measure of the combined effects of roads and habitat amount: accessible habitat. We define accessible habitat as the amount of habitat that can be reached from a focal habitat patch without crossing a road, and make available a GIS tool to calculate accessible habitat. We hypothesize that accessible habitat will be the best predictor of the effects of habitat loss and roads for any species for which roads are a major barrier to movement. We conducted a case study of the utility of the accessible habitat concept using a data set of anuran species richness from 27 ponds near a motorway. We defined habitat as forest in this example. We found that accessible habitat was not only a better predictor of species richness than total habitat in the landscape or distance to the motorway, but also that by failing to consider accessible habitat we would have incorrectly concluded that there was no effect of habitat amount on species richness.

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Keywords Accessible habitat, Amphibians, Barriers, Deforestation, GIS, Habitat fragmentation, Habitat loss, Ontario, Road ecology, Species richness
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10980-007-9174-7
Journal Landscape Ecology
Eigenbrod, F. (Felix), Hecnar, S.J. (Stephen J.), & Fahrig, L. (2008). Accessible habitat: An improved measure of the effects of habitat loss and roads on wildlife populations. Landscape Ecology, 23(2), 159–168. doi:10.1007/s10980-007-9174-7