Water vole conservation

The water vole Arvicola amphibious provides a vivid illustration of the process of conservation research, from the initial discovery that a species is declining, through diagnostic research into the causes, then development and testing of solutions, to the production and implementation of a strategy for the species’ recovery. In doing so, the following questions are relevant: How did it come to light that the species was a conservation concern? What evidence was required, and how was that evidence accumulated? How were the causes of the decline diagnosed? How were the remedies devised and tested? How were the remedies implemented? When do we know enough that research is no longer necessary? Is society prepared to foot the bill, both financially and ethically, to enact the conservation actions required? Twenty years of WildCRU research have aimed to address these questions for the water vole.

Tom Moorhouse
David W. Macdonald
Rob Strachan
Xavier Lambin


Fraser, E.J., Macdonald, D.W., Oliver, M.K., Piertney, S.B., and Lambin, X. (2013). Using population genetic structure of an invasive mammal to target control efforts—an example of the American mink in Scotland. Biological Conservation, 167, 35–42.

Hughes, J., Pretty, J., and Macdonald, D.W. (2013). Nature as a source of health and well-being: is this an ecosystem service that could pay for conserving biodiversity? In D.W. Macdonald and K.J. Willis, eds. Key Topics in Conservation Biology 2, pp. 143–160. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford.

Moehrenschlager, A., Shier, D.M., Moorhouse, T.P., and Stanley Price, M.R. (2013) Righting past wrongs and ensuring the future. Key Topics in Conservation Biology 2 (D.W. Macdonald and K.J. Willis, eds.) pp. 405–429. John Wiley & Sons.

Strachan, R., Moorhouse, T., and Gelling, M. (2011). Water Vole Conservation Handbook, 3rd ed. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford.

Dutton, A., Edwards-Jones, G., Strachan, R., and Macdonald, D.W. (2008). Ecological and social challenges to biodiversity conservation on farmland: reconnecting habitats on a landscape scale. Mammal Review, 38, 205–219.

Moorhouse, T.P. and Macdonald, D.W. (2008). What limits male range sizes at different population densities? Evidence from three populations of water voles. Journal of Zoology, 274, 395–402.

Bonesi, L., Rushton, S.P., and Macdonald, D.W. (2007). Trapping for mink control and water vole survival: identifying key criteria using a spatially explicit individual based model. Biological Conservation, 136, 636–650.

Moorhouse, T.P., Gelling, M., McLaren, G.W., Mian, R., and Macdonald, D.W. (2007). Physiological consequences of captive conditions in water voles (Arvicola terrestris). Journal of Zoology, 271, 19–26.

Strachan, R. and Moorhouse, T. (2006). Water Vole Conservation Handbook, 2nd ed. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford.

Strachan, R., Moorhouse, T.P., Bonesi, L., and Harrington, L. (2005) Restoring and reintroducing water voles. In D.W. Macdonald, ed. The second WildCRU review, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, pp. 121–127.

Moorhouse, T.P. and Macdonald, D.W. (2005). Indirect negative impacts of radio-collaring: sex ratio variation in water voles. Journal of Applied Ecology, 42, 91–98.

Moorhouse, T.P. and Macdonald, D.W. (2005). Temporal patterns of range use in water voles: Do females’ territories drift? Journal of Mammalogy, 86, 655–661.

Macdonald, D.W. and Rushton, S. (2003). Modelling space use and dispersal of mammals in real landscapes: a tool for conservation. Journal of Biogeography, 30, 607–620.

Strachan, R. and Holmes-Ling, P. (2003). Restoring water voles and other biodiversity to the wider countryside. A report on the Chichester coastal plain sustainable farming partnership. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford.

Yamaguchi, N., Rushton, S., and Macdonald, D.W. (2003) Habitat preferences of feral American mink in the Upper Thames. Journal of Mammalogy, 84, 1356–1373.

Bonesi, L., Rushton, S., and Macdonald, D. (2002). The combined effect of environmental factors and neighbouring populations on the distribution and abundance of Arvicola terrestris. An approach using rule-based models. Oikos, 99, 220–230.

Macdonald, D.W., Sidorovich, V.E., Anisomova, E.I., Sidorovich, N.V., and Johnson, P.J. (2002). The impact of American mink Mustela vison and European mink Mustela lutreola on water voles Arvicola terrestris in Belarus. Ecography, 25, 295–302.

Macdonald, D.W., Mace, G.M., and Rushton, S. (2000). British mammals: is there a radical future? In A. Entwistle and N. Dunstone, eds. Priorities for the Conservation of Mammalian Diversity: Has the Panda Had its Day?, pp. 175–205. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Rushton, S.P., Barreto, G.W., Cormack, R.M., Macdonald, D.W., and Fuller, R. (2000). Modelling the effects of mink and habitat fragmentation on the water vole. Journal of Applied Ecology, 37, 475–490.

Strachan, C., Strachan, R., and Jefferies, D.J. (2000). Preliminary report on the changes in water vole population of Britain as shown by the National Surveys of 1989–1990 and 1996–1998. The Vincent Wildlife Trust, London.

Macdonald, D. and Strachan, R. (1999). The Mink and the Water Vole. Analyses for Conservation. EA/Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford.

Barreto, G.R., Macdonald, D.W., and Strachan, R. (1998). The tightrope hypothesis: an explanation for plummeting water vole numbers in the Thames catchment. In R.G. Bailey and P.V. Jose, eds. UK Flood Plains, pp. 311–327. Sherwood Westbury Academic & Scientific Publications, Otley, UK.

Barreto, G.R., Rushton, S.P., Strachan, R., and Macdonald, D.W. (1998). The role of habitat and mink predation in determining the status and distribution of water voles in England. Animal Conservation, 1, 129–137.

Macdonald, D.W., Mace, G.M., and Rushton, S. (1998). Proposals for the future monitoring of British mammals. A report produced for DETR and JNCC by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford.

Strachan, R. (1998). Water Vole Conservation Handbook. EN/EA/Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford.

Halliwell, E.C and Macdonald, D.W. (1996). American mink Mustela vison in the upper Thames catchment: relationship with selected prey species and den availability. Biological Conservation, 76, 51–56.

Strachan, R. and Jefferies, D.J. (1993). The water vole Arvicola terrestris in Britain 1989–1990: its distribution and changing status. The Vincent Wildlife Trust, London.

Strachan, C., Jefferies, D.J., Barretot, G.R., Macdonald, D.W., and Strachan, R. (1998). The rapid impact of resident American mink on water voles: case studies in lowland England. Symposium of the Zoological Society of London, 71, 339–357.