The Effects of Roads on the Occupancy and Movement of Forest Rats in Tropical Rainforest of Borneo

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Heon, S. (2016) The Effects of Roads on the Occupancy and Movement of Forest Rats in Tropical Rainforest of Borneo. Unpublished Masters Thesis. Imperial College London

Roads lead to forest fragmentation and the creation of edges which alters the habitat for many species. In tropical rainforests, widespread selective logging is driving the proliferation of unpaved and narrow logging roads. However, little is known about the extent of road edge effects and influence on animal movement in understorey species like forest rats. Here, my aim was to use forest rats as a study model to address the following questions: (1) Does the occupancy of rats differ from road edges to forest interior? (2) Can rats cross roads between forests? I established a trapping grid along a road edge-to-forest interior gradient along five roads and three control forests at the SAFE experimental landscape in Sabah, Malaysia. Rats caught were translocated across the road, to investigate if they would be re-captured in the trap grid on subsequent nights. In total, I caught 216 individuals from eight species in 3456 trap-nights. The results show occupancy did not differ across the road edge-to-interior gradient. In the translocation study, 47 percent (50 out of the 105 individuals translocated) returned from across the roads. This proportion was not significantly different from the proportion of rats returning from control sites, suggesting that roads were not acting as barriers to movement. Sub-adults were more likely to return (P<0.05) from translocation both roads and control sites. These results suggest that roads are unlikely to create an edge effect that influences the habitat selection of forest rats or restrict rat movement across 18 forests.