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Hof et al (2010a) hedgehog agri-environment schemes macro-invertebrate feeders

Title: The value of agri-environment schemes for macro-invertebrate feeders: hedgehogs on arable farms in Britain, Animal Conservation; 1-10. 2010

Authors: A. R. Hof & P. W. Bright

Country: UK

Background to study

A radio-tracking study of hedgehogs in agricultural landscapes to determine the importance of agri-environment schemes for hedgehogs. 

Method

  • Hedgehog movement was studied within two large arable farms that consisted of woodland and fields of arable, pasture and set-aside, 6 m-wide field margins (entered in an agri-environment scheme) and 2-3 m high, 1-3 m wide hedgerows.  Non-farmland habitat within the study area consisted of village (mostly gardens) and amenity grasslands.
  • 12 rehabilitated adult male hedgehogs were radio-tagged and released into the study area to aid in locating and fitting radio-transmitters to local hedgehog populations. Only local hedgehog data was used.
  • 44 local hedgehogs (24 males, 20 females) were tracked once per hour from dusk till dawn between May and July 2008 for a minimum of 10 nights each and their habitat use, distance to nearest neighbouring habitat type and the proximity to edge, behaviour (foraging, resting, running and walking) and speed of movement by habitat was recorded. Causes and sites of hedgehog mortality were recorded

Key results

  • At a landscape level, male hedgehogs showed a significantly higher preference for hedgerows over agri-environment field margins and in ranked order of preference, hedgerows, agri-environment field margins, pasture-village, woodland, amenity grassland, set-aside and arable habitat were most to least favoured.
  • At a landscape level, females were more frequently seen in non-farmland habitat, compared with males and showed a significantly higher preference for hedgerows over amenity grassland and for pasture over set-aside. In ranked order of preference, hedgerows, village, amenity grassland, woodland, agri-environment field margins, pasture, set-aside and arable habitat were the most to least favoured.
  • Both males and females showed a non-random use of habitat at a landscape and home range level and habitat selection at the home-range level was different from the landscape level:
    • At the home-range level, agri-environment field margins were preferred more and amenity grassland were preferred less, than at the landscape level.
    • At a home-range level, hedgerows were significantly favoured over agri-environment field margins which were significantly preferred over village which was significantly preferred over woodland, followed by non-significant preferences to pasture, then arable, finishing with amenity grasslands being least preferred.
  • Behaviour of hedgehogs was different between habitat types. Foraging was the main activity in all habitats except hedgerows and woodland that were used for resting (61 and 48% of time respectively).
  • Hedgehogs spent most time foraging in amenity grassland and in pastures (64 & 57% of time respectively).
  • Mean travel speed ranged from 2 m/min to 4.2 m/min and the highest mean travel spead was observed in set-aside, followed by arable fields, both of which the travel time was significantly faster than that observed in other habitat types.
  • When in arable fields, amenity grassland and woodland, hedgehogs remained <10 m of the nearest boundary, whilst in pasture and set-aside, hedgehogs were between 30 & 40 m from the boundary.
  • Eight of nine hedgehogs that died during the study period were predated by badgers in farmland habitat, equating to an 18% and 52 % predation rate during the study and annual activity period respectively.

Key messages to landowners and managers derived from these results

  • Agri-environment schemes that (re)create hedgerows and establish field margins are recommended for hedgehog conservation, particularly in intensively farmed arable landscapes where food availability and nesting sites are sparce and in farmland near urban areas where badgers are less active.
  • Grassy field margins are likely to be more beneficial than set-aside as an environmental option.
  • Surveys for hedgehogs in short-cropped vegetated fields should focus effort at field boundaries whilst in longer swards, survey effort across whole fields is recommended to improve hedgehog detection.

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