Nav: Home

More woodland management needed to help save dormice

June 26, 2018

Managing woodlands to a greater extent could help stop the decline of Britain's dormice, new research suggests.

Dormouse numbers are falling in Britain - down by 72% in just over 20 years - and the scientists say this could reflect changes in climate and the composition and structure of woodland habitats.

The findings, from two new studies led by the University of Exeter, show dormice favour woodland with varied heights and areas of regrowth, including species such as hazel and yew that provide the flowers, fruits and nuts they enjoy.

The researchers call for a return to active woodland management, which can include coppicing, glade creation and small-scale tree felling, to create a "mosaic" of trees of different ages and sizes, especially areas of new growth and medium-height trees.

Dormouse numbers are higher in woodlands with more varied tree heights and scrubby areas, and they prefer to use areas of woodland edge, and dense trees and shrubs, when they move around at night.

"Habitats that we found to be good for dormice have been in decline," said lead author Dr Cecily Goodwin, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

"Dormouse conservation would benefit from more broadleaf woodland in the landscape and more diverse woodland structure - ranging from new growth and scrub to mid-height woodland to old trees.

Professor Robbie McDonald, who directed the research, said ""There has been a decline of woodland management that creates diverse forests, and an increase in large stands of mature, single-age trees, which are not such good habitats for dormice or various other declining woodland species, such as some birds and butterflies."

Wildlife charity, People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), has been collecting population data on hazel dormice for over 20 years. These records are collated within the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme (NDMP).

Using NDMP data from 300 sites across England and Wales (there are no dormice in Scotland), the researchers investigated hazel dormouse numbers, breeding and population trends in relation to climate, landscape, habitat and woodland management.

Nida Al-Fulaij Grants Manager at PTES said, "PTES has been working hard to understand the ecology of hazel dormice and the conservation issues they face for over twenty years. With data collected by hundreds of dedicated volunteers, this research will enable us to work closely with woodland owners to ensure a brighter future for one of Britain's best loved animals."

Commenting on another finding that hibernating dormice benefit from consistently cold winters, the researchers said variable winters most likely cause the sleepy rodents to waste energy by waking up only to return to hibernation. Climatic changes in Britain are likely to have contributed to dormouse declines.
-end-
The papers are entitled: "Habitat preferences of hazel dormice Muscardinus avellanarius and the effects of tree-felling on their movement" (published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management) and "Climate, landscape, habitat, and woodland management associations with hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius population status" (published in Mammal Review). Both studies were funded by the Forestry Commission and NERC, and the Mammal Review study was supported by the People's Trust for Endangered Species.

University of Exeter

Related Research Articles:

More Research News and Research Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Processing The Pandemic
Between the pandemic and America's reckoning with racism and police brutality, many of us are anxious, angry, and depressed. This hour, TED Fellow and writer Laurel Braitman helps us process it all.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#568 Poker Face Psychology
Anyone who's seen pop culture depictions of poker might think statistics and math is the only way to get ahead. But no, there's psychology too. Author Maria Konnikova took her Ph.D. in psychology to the poker table, and turned out to be good. So good, she went pro in poker, and learned all about her own biases on the way. We're talking about her new book "The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Invisible Allies
As scientists have been scrambling to find new and better ways to treat covid-19, they've come across some unexpected allies. Invisible and primordial, these protectors have been with us all along. And they just might help us to better weather this viral storm. To kick things off, we travel through time from a homeless shelter to a military hospital, pondering the pandemic-fighting power of the sun. And then, we dive deep into the periodic table to look at how a simple element might actually be a microbe's biggest foe. This episode was reported by Simon Adler and Molly Webster, and produced by Annie McEwen and Pat Walters. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.