Responses of the West European hedgehog to urbanisation: impact on population dynamics, animal movement and habitat selection

Schaus Calderón, J., 2021. Responses of the West European hedgehog to urbanisation: impact on population dynamics, animal movement and habitat selection. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Urbanisation is rapidly increasing, producing drastic changes in the environment. While many species are unable to adapt to these human-made environments, some species not only survive but thrive in urban landscapes. The West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus is a species of conservation concern in the United Kingdom where populations have declined markedly since the 1950s. Despite declines being reported both in urban and rural areas, the species seems to be persisting in cities and towns. However, current population estimates are unreliable and our understanding of the population status of the species is limited. This study aimed to understand how hedgehogs respond to urbanisation by investigating how their density, movement behaviour and habitat selection varies across urban and rural landscapes.

Between 2016 and 2019, camera trapping and high-frequency GPS movement data were collected across England. Hedgehog densities were calculated from camera trapping data using the Random Encounter Model (REM) across five urban and four rural study sites, and compared to those estimated by Spatially Capture-Recapture using data from nocturnal spotlight surveys. Hedgehog movement was studied across five urban and six rural sites, where home range was evaluated using the Time Local Convex Hull (T-LoCoH) method. Movement behaviour was extracted from GPS data using Hidden Markov Models, incorporated into habitat selection analysis and studied using the integrated step selection analysis.

Hedgehog density, as estimated by the REM, was on average 7.5 times higher in urban versus rural landscapes. The movement of individual hedgehogs differed between both landscapes: urban individuals exhibited slower speeds and travelled shorter distances per night than rural individuals. Nightly home range size was best predicted by sex, landscape and the proportion of gardens used: larger home ranges were displayed by males in the rural landscape, and home range sizes decreased as the proportion of gardens used increased. Hedgehogs spent more time foraging (68%) than travelling (32%) across both landscapes. However, the time spent performing each behaviour varied by sex and landscape. Gardens were found to be important habitats, as they were strongly selected for foraging and travelling behaviours of hedgehogs in both urban and rural areas.

This is the first comparative study to estimate population densities across urban and rural areas in England and provide researchers with a robust methodology that uses camera trapping data and the REM for the monitoring of species. Furthermore, this is the first study to incorporate behaviour extracted from GPS movement data into habitat selection analysis to better understand how hedgehogs are using different habitats in different landscapes. Findings from this study provide important and novel information to aid understanding of how different landscapes are affecting the distribution and behaviour of hedgehogs and how they are exploiting anthropogenic landscape features to persist in cities and towns.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Schaus Calderón, J.
Date: April 2021
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed in the owner(s) of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 09 Jul 2021 11:01
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2021 11:05

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