An interactive tool has been developed to help map suitable habitats for a nationally significant water vole species.
The web tool was created by researchers from the University of Glasgow, alongside partners from Glasgow City Council, NatureScot and Seven Lochs Wetland Park.
It aims to provide detailed knowledge of habitat suitability for the under-threat European Water Vole, Arvicola amphibius, in order to protect them.
The voles occupy dry grassland habitats in parks and green spaces in and around the city of Glasgow.
However, many of the areas have been identified for urban regeneration.
University of Glasgow researchers have now developed a model which is able to map green corridors between areas of suitable habitat.
It can also predict how city development may influence the availability of habitat for water voles.
The tool is being used for the management and conservation of water voles in North East Glasgow and the Seven Lochs Wetland Park.
Luca Nelli, lead author of the study from the University of Glasgow, explained that the model will will help to inform management of water voles.
“With our work, we wanted to develop a user-friendly tool for conservation that can be used by planners to inform ecological decision making, increase biodiversity and reduce human-wildlife conflict in urban environments,” said Nelli.
“This model will be used to inform management of water voles, balance the legal protection of this species, maintain green amenity space for local people, and to inform the planning of building and infrastructure for the socio-economic development of affected areas.
“We also hope this will provide a framework for applying similar practices to the management of other species and habitats in urban environments.”
Catherine Scott, co-author of the study from Glasgow City Council, described the research as “invaluable”.
“The unique population of urban grassland water voles in Glasgow is a huge biodiversity success,” she said.
“However, it does also present new unique challenges and the Council always welcomes partnership working with a range of organisations for new and emerging issues.
“This new research will feed into the existing planning system and is invaluable in providing additional guidance to help balance both the needs of biodiversity and a thriving city.
“After all, well connected greenspace which provides the habitat connectivity required for this nationally significant species, can also provide the active travel routes to work, school and play for residents.
“And by identifying the core areas of biodiversity interest, other areas can be unlocked for regeneration projects.”