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National water vole database and mapping project

In order to restore water vole populations effectively, we need to understand exactly where they are thriving.

The problem

The 2006 Biodiversity Action Plan set national targets for increasing water vole distribution across the UK by 2030.  To be effective in this, it was recognised that a Geographic Information System would need to be developed to accurately map the distribution of water voles and enable strategic conservation effort at local, regional and national level.

The solution

The National Water Vole Database and Mapping Project was established in 2008 by the UK Water Vole Steering Group as a way to collate, map and analyse water vole and American mink data from across the UK in support of UK Biodiversity Action Plan objectives.  Mapping for the project is updated annually and displays data covering a 10 year period in the form of distribution maps and alert and key area maps.  The alert and key area maps give an indication of potential dispersal zones of water voles from known records.  They are used to assist water vole conservation through habitat restoration, water vole reintroductions and mink control, and as an enabler of landscape-scale partnership working across administrative boundaries.

The Project is managed by The Wildlife Trusts, with work delivered by a Project Officer based at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.  The project is made possible by the continued, valuable support of the Local Records Centres, Wildlife Trusts and individuals who provide their records each year for inclusion in the project.

Latest findings

A report published by the Database and Mapping Project in 2017 estimated a further 30% decline in the places where water voles live in England and Wales between 2006-2015. Encouragingly, the report did show that there was a slight increase in distribution of water voles in the most recent reporting period (2011 to 2015) compared to the previous reporting period (2010 to 2014) and some successful conservation activity. 

UK Water Vole Steering Group

The UK Water Vole Steering Group is made up of representatives of the Environment Agency, Natural England, The Wildlife Trusts, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural Resources Wales

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