Potential importance of urban areas for water voles: Arvicola amphibius


Cities are not often considered priority areas for threatened mammals; however, recent research suggests that urban areas may be important for water vole (Arvicola amphibius) conservation. To establish the potential importance of cities in supporting water vole populations, we used National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas data to examine the occurrence of water voles within the United Kingdom (UK). Water voles were recorded in 28 out of 64 official UK cities in the last decade (2010–2018), and rivers and streams within parks, sports grounds, and urban reserves were the most important habitat types. In total, we found 497 records of water vole sightings within official cities, representing 5.0% of all records for this species in the NBN Atlas. Our results show that water voles are indeed found within many cities, suggesting that urban populations of water voles are more common in the UK than previously recognised. We therefore recommend that the importance of these urban populations for conservation of this species should be further established.

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Fig. 1

Data availability

All data is freely downloadable from the National Biodiversity Network Atlas: https://species.nbnatlas.org/species/NHMSYS0020546253.

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All authors were supported by the University of Glasgow and this study was undertaken by JAL in partial fulfillment of the MRes Ecology and Environmental Biology.


The work was funded by the Seven Lochs Wetland Park (Heritage Lottery Fund), Scottish Natural Heritage, Glasgow City Council and the Peoples’ Trust for Endangered Species.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by Jessica A. Leivesley. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Jessica A. Leivesley and all authors commented on drafts of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final version.

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Correspondence to Jessica A. Leivesley.

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Online Resource 1

Names of data contributors to water vole records in the National Biodiversity Network Atlas. If available, this also contains the doi of each dataset and licensing. (PDF 113 kb)

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Leivesley, J.A., Stewart, R.A., Paterson, V. et al. Potential importance of urban areas for water voles: Arvicola amphibius. Eur J Wildl Res 67, 15 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-021-01467-5

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  • Water vole
  • Urban
  • City
  • Refuges