Knapdale water vole project
Water voles have sadly become locally extinct in many areas, with numbers falling by 90% since 1950. Apart from their obvious role in the food chain for many other animals, water voles are also important eco-engineers, helping to regenerate riparian habitats. Their burrows help to dry out key areas, enhancing nutrients, increasing microbial activity & nitrate availability which in turn increases plant species & biodiversity. Although appearing relatively fragile, water voles have proven to be very resilient (coping with pollution & habitat changes), however, the expansion of populations is via the dispersal of young individuals which requires healthy populations. The successful reintroduction of beavers to Knapdale has created the ideal habitat for water vole reintroduction. This project, led by the Heart of Argyll Wildlife Organisation, will help to pilot a new approach to water vole reintroduction (in areas with successful beaver reintroduction programmes) which could result in a much more cost-effective, sustainable approach with very positive outcomes both environmentally & also economically (eg enhanced eco-tourism). This grant is towards the costs for year 1 of a 3 year introductory programme.