Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Wildlife Biology

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Winsor H. Lowe

Commitee Members

Lisa A. Eby, Paul M. Lukacs


effects of roads on dispersal, Dicamptodon aterrimus, stream amphibian, culverts, apparent survival, aquatic organism passage


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Aquaculture and Fisheries | Forest Management | Other Animal Sciences | Other Forestry and Forest Sciences | Zoology


Habitat disturbances affect wildlife populations through numerous mechanisms, and determining specific components of habitat disturbances affecting those populations is challenging. For example, a single disturbance can both change local habitat conditions and impose limitations on dispersal of animals. Both of these components can negatively affect biological responses, such as body condition, local movement patterns, or survival. Culverts are a habitat disturbance having both of these components. Culverts affect local habitat conditions by increasing sediment levels in downstream reaches, negatively affecting animals downstream of culverts. Culverts also impose limits on dispersal by blocking passage of stream organisms to upstream reaches, negatively affecting populations upstream of culverts. Therefore, because the negative effects of the components of the habitat disturbance can be spatially separated (i.e., downstream v. upstream), we can determine which component may be responsible for negative trends attributed to culverts observed at the landscape scale. Road density and culverts have been negatively associated with occupancy of streams by Dicamptodon aterrimus, the Idaho giant salamander, but the underlying mechanism is unknown. I assessed the effects of road culverts on sediment levels and dispersal of D. aterrimus in nine streams. I then assessed the effects of culverts on three biological responses of D. aterrimus: body condition, in-reach movement behavior, and survival. I conducted my study in streams with three crossing types: unimproved culverts, improved culverts, and streams with no culverts. I predicted that changes to local habitat conditions downstream of culverts would negatively affect biological responses of individuals downstream of culverts. I predicted that limits on dispersal to reaches upstream of culverts would negatively affect biological responses in reaches upstream of culverts. I found no evidence culverts affected local habitat conditions, dispersal of D. aterrimus, or biological responses of D. aterrimus. Habitat disturbance from culverts might not affect D. aterrimus because this species is a habitat generalists and may not have responded biologically to the pressures of isolation. Though I did not find evidence that rates of upstream dispersal varied among crossing types, it is logical that unimproved culverts do block the upstream dispersal of aquatic D. aterrimus and reduction of these movements could have negative consequences in the long-term. Therefore, managers should aim to include stream amphibians in stream restoration goals.



© Copyright 2014 Richard K. Honeycutt