Reintroduction of water voles boosts other wildlife, says New Forest conservation charity

301122-water vole- Barry Batchelor/PA Archive/PA Images
Sixty water voles were released in summer 2022 into the water meadows of the River Avon. Credit: Barry Batchelor/PA Archive/PA Images

The reintroduction of water voles on the Hampshire-Dorset border has been a welcome boost to other species, according to scientists from a New Forest based national conservation charity.

Sixty water voles were released in summer 2022 into the water meadows of the River Avon south of Ringwood to try to re-establish the population.

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust says there are now more waterfowl including gadwall and widgeons, which are types of ducks, in the area too.

Wetlands Ecologist Lizzie Grayshon said: "We are seeing far more waterfowl using the river meadows."

"Our trail cameras are showing good numbers of less common species such as gadwall and widgeon. It is really encouraging to see them as it shows that our habitat work is paying off for a wide range of species.

"The water vole reintroduction, and the benefits for other threatened wildlife, shows that not all species reintroductions require re-wilding of the landscape or designation as nature reserves.

To prepare for the water voles' arrival, willow and debris was cleared from 3,440 metres of the herringbone system of drainage ditches.

It encouraged wetland plants such as reeds, rushes and sedges to thrive and provide the new water vole population with food and shelter.

Lizzie added: "Wildlife can thrive on farmland when there is active management of habitat and predation, driven by a landowner or manager committed to conservation."

"These improvements are already benefitting a whole range of other water meadow species in the Avon Valley, including invertebrates and threatened wading birds.

"The ducks don't like to use areas where vegetation hangs over the water, preventing them from seeing predators coming, so the areas we cleared for the benefit of the water voles and the waders are also suiting them."