‘We’ve covered huge swathes of the UK in tarmac’: how roads affect birds

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Rarer birds suffer the most from the network that criss-crosses the country, finds study, but kerbside life appears to suit some

In 1925, ecologist Dayton Stoner drove 632 miles through Iowa, making a note of all the dead animals he saw en route. There were 225 pieces of roadkill in total, including red-headed woodpeckers, painted terrapins and blue racer snakes – once-common species that are now rare. The paper, called The Toll of the Automobile, was the first study of “road ecology” – a growing area of research that looks at the many ways tarmac dissects habitats.

In Britain, dead pheasants, foxes and badgers are common roadside sightings, but much of the environmental damage is hidden and hard to measure – roads fragment habitats and damage them through noise, chemical and light pollution. There are an estimated 28m miles (45m km) of paved roads on our planet, set to increase to about 43m miles by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.

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