Project to explore how changing climate is affecting survival of British hedgehogs

Posted by ap507 at Feb 16, 2017 10:25 AM |
University of Leicester researchers to monitor hedgehog activity over the winter

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 16 February 2017    

Images from the project including hedgehog footprints and tunnels are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/3fjdwb0tzmg7o6d/AACmhVy4Jiqhzgrpw_954W2Za?dl=0

Researchers from the University of Leicester will be exploring how the UK’s changing climate could be affecting the survival of British hedgehogs as part of a new project to protect endangered animal species.

The project, which is funded by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, will investigate whether warmer and wetter winters are impacting invertebrate food sources for hedgehogs, which would have a detrimental effect on their ability to survive.

The study, which is led by Saadia Khan at the University of Leicester, who is being supervised by Dr Moya Burns from the University’s Department of Geography, will investigate invertebrate abundance in urban environments and if changing climactic conditions are affecting hedgehog survival during winter waking.

Saadia said: “Hedgehogs are known to periodically awake from hibernation and forage for short periods during warm winter spells. With warmer winters, these periods of winter waking may be increasing. This poses problems if the energy lost during winter waking is not replaced due to the lack of food sources available in the winter.

“The results from this study will help us understand how a changing climate is affecting British hedgehogs.”

Existing research on hedgehog activity is already under way at 12 sites at the University of Leicester, which previously looked at Autumn food availability and activity of hedgehogs.

Saadia will build on this work by using footprint tracking tunnels to monitor hedgehog activity over winter.

She will also put out data loggers to determine whether the frequency with which hedgehogs forage over winter has any relationship to the ambient temperature.

By sampling for ground beetles, earthworms and slugs, Saadia will also be able to assess what food is available for hedgehogs over winter.

Richard Kelly, Nature Conservation Officer at Leicester City Council, added: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Leicester City Council and the University of Leicester to work together on conservation projects like this. The information obtained from this study will be invaluable.

“A previous study carried out by Leicester City Council called Hog-Watch found several population clusters around Leicester which have helped inform on some of the research sites in the current project. It is hoped that the findings may indicate where extra conservation efforts could be focused in helping to reduce the decline of the hedgehog.”

The project is titled: ‘The impact of warmer, wetter winters on invertebrate food sources for hedgehogs in urban environments and the impacts for hedgehog survival during winter waking.’

More information about the study is available here: https://ptes.org/grants/internship-projects/hedgehogs-and-climate/

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information contact Saadia Khan on thedelaney1@hotmail.com

 

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