Hazel Dormouse Conservation

Our research in this area focuses on understanding the status of hazel dormouse populations in the UK, their habitat needs, and how these fit within wider woodland conservation. We are also investigating the implications of climate for dormouse ecology, and how climate change may effect their conservation going forward.

The hazel dormouse is in decline in the UK, where climate and the extent and quality of forested habitats has changed over the recent past. In our alumnae Dr Cecily Goodwin‘s PhD, we researched the patterns and drivers of hazel dormouse decline and how their conservation can be better integrated into woodland management practises. We are also interested in the efficacy of conservation policy to protect this declining species. We have approached these research questions using long-term national population data collected by citizen scientists, remote sensing data of woodland habitat cover and quality, and data collected in the field on dormouse diet and movements.

Building on Cecily’s work, Ellie Scopes’ PhD research is investigating the population ecology of hazel dormice in more detail. Part of this work is investigating how dormice survival and fecundity influences population growth, which can then inform conservation practices and answer questions about how the timing of forest management might effect dormouse populations. We are also hoping to investigate the preferred understorey and canopy structure for dormice, and how this can be created through forest management. Future work will investigate the habitat factors that effect the colonisation and extinction of dormouse sites, with the aim of identifying conservation actions that could increase the stability of dormice within a landscape.

Moving away from habitat management, Charlotte Armitage’s PhD research is focusing on the impact of climate on dormouse ecology, particularly on the use torpor and prevalence of breeding. Dormice use torpor to conserve energy during times of bad weather or reduced food resources, allowing survival but possibly delaying or preventing breeding. This work is investigating how climate has effected the use of torpor, and how this is likely to change under different climate change scenarios for the UK. It is also looking  how the over-use of torpor, driven by the climate, might effect breeding and dormouse population growth.

Further areas of investigation include: population modelling and simulation; predictive modelling of suitable habitat; and examining the dynamics of  dormice populations in woodlands of different structure and composition.

Publications

Goodwin, C. E., Hodgson, D. J., Al‐Fulaij, N., Bailey, S., Langton, S., & Mcdonald, R. A. (2017). Voluntary recording scheme reveals ongoing decline in the United Kingdom hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius population. Mammal Review47(3), 183-197.

Goodwin, C. E., Hodgson, D. J., Bailey, S., Bennie, J., & McDonald, R. A. (2018). Habitat preferences of hazel dormice Muscardinus avellanarius and the effects of tree-felling on their movement. Forest Ecology and Management427, 190-199.

Goodwin, C. E., Suggitt, A. J., Bennie, J., Silk, M. J., Duffy, J. P., Al‐Fulaij, N., Bailey, S., Hodgson, D. & McDonald, R. A. (2018). Climate, landscape, habitat, and woodland management associations with hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius population status. Mammal Review48(3), 209-223.

Research Team 2013-2018

Professor Robbie McDonald (University of Exeter)

Professor Dave Hodgson (University of Exeter)

Dr Sallie Bailey (Forestry Commission)

Dr Cecily Goodwin (University of Exeter)

Research Team 2019-2023

Ellie Scopes (University of Exeter)

Charlotte Armitage (University of Exeter)

Professor Robbie McDonald (University of Exeter)

Professor Mike Bruford (Cardiff University)

Dr Frank Hailer (Cardiff University)

Alice Broome (Forest Research)

Katherine Walsh (Natural England)

Dr Liz Halliwell (Natural Resources Wales)