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Biodiversity in urban gardens: Assessing the accuracy of citizen science data on garden hedgehogs

Abstract

Urban gardens provide a rich habitat for species that are declining in rural areas. However, collecting data in gardens can be logistically-challenging, time-consuming and intrusive to residents. This study examines the potential of citizen scientists to record hedgehog sightings and collect habitat data within their own gardens using an online questionnaire. Focussing on a charismatic species meant that the number of responses was high (516 responses were obtained in six weeks, with a ~50:50 % split between gardens with and without hedgehog sightings). While many factors commonly thought to influence hedgehog presence (e.g. compost heaps) were present in many hedgehog-frequented gardens, they were not discriminatory as they were also found in gardens where hedgehogs were not seen. Respondents were most likely to have seen hedgehogs in their garden if they had also seen hedgehogs elsewhere in their neighbourhood. However, primary fieldwork using hedgehog ‘footprint tunnels’ showed that hedgehogs were found to be just as prevalent in gardens in which hedgehogs had previously been reported as gardens where they had not been reported. Combining these results indicates that hedgehogs may be more common in urban and semi-urban gardens than previously believed, and that casual volunteer records of hedgehogs may be influenced more by the observer than by habitat preferences of the animal. When verified, volunteer records can provide useful information, but care is needed in interpreting these data.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Lucy Clarke for providing the hedgehog tunnels used in this study. We also thank the reviewers for thoughtful comments which improved the paper from the initial draft. All work in this study, including the work with human volunteers participating in the questionnaire or the hedgehog tunnel survey, was approved by the University of Gloucestershire ethics committee prior to commencing.

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Correspondence to Rachel L. Williams.

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Williams, R.L., Stafford, R. & Goodenough, A.E. Biodiversity in urban gardens: Assessing the accuracy of citizen science data on garden hedgehogs. Urban Ecosyst 18, 819–833 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-014-0431-7

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Keywords

  • Hedgehog
  • Garden
  • Urban biodiversity
  • Mammal
  • Citizen science