Biodiversity in urban gardens: Assessing the accuracy of citizen science data on garden hedgehogs
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Authors: Williams, R.L., Stafford, R. and Goodenough, A.E.
Journal: Urban Ecosystems
Urban gardens provide a rich habitat for species that are declining in rural areas. However, collecting data in gardens can be logistically-challenging, time-consuming and intrusive to residents. This study examines the potential of citizen scientists to record hedgehog sightings and collect habitat data within their own gardens using an online questionnaire. Focussing on a charismatic species meant that the number of responses was high (516 responses were obtained in six weeks, with a ~50:50 % split between gardens with and without hedgehog sightings). While many factors commonly thought to influence hedgehog presence (e.g. compost heaps) were present in many hedgehog-frequented gardens, they were not discriminatory as they were also found in gardens where hedgehogs were not seen. Respondents were most likely to have seen hedgehogs in their garden if they had also seen hedgehogs elsewhere in their neighbourhood. However, primary fieldwork using hedgehog ‘footprint tunnels’ showed that hedgehogs were found to be just as prevalent in gardens in which hedgehogs had previously been reported as gardens where they had not been reported. Combining these results indicates that hedgehogs may be more common in urban and semi-urban gardens than previously believed, and that casual volunteer records of hedgehogs may be influenced more by the observer than by habitat preferences of the animal. When verified, volunteer records can provide useful information, but care is needed in interpreting these data.