Effects of large-scale heathland management on thermal regimes and predation on adders Vipera berus

John Worthington-Hill, Jennifer Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Management prescriptions for species of conservation concern often focus on creating appropriate habitat conditions, but the spatial scales over which these actions are applied can potentially impact their success. In Northwestern Europe, preventing further loss of lowland heathland through successional changes often involves the mechanical removal of vegetation, creating large blocks of open homogenous habitat. We investigate the influence of this broad-scale habitat management on a heathland specialist, the adder Vipera berus. By deploying temperature loggers and Plasticine adder models in heathland areas with and without complex vegetation cover, we show that (1) cleared areas lack both the temperature variation adders need to thermoregulate effectively and suitable refuges from dangerously high summer temperatures, and (2) attacks by dogs and trampling by grazing livestock are significantly more frequent in cleared areas and closer to footpaths. Habitat management strategies that retain some structural complexity of vegetation within cleared areas, and diverting footpaths away from cleared areas and/or strategic placement of barrier hedging around these areas could potentially reduce the exposure of adders to high predation risk and thermal extremes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-492
Number of pages12
JournalAnimal Conservation
Issue number5
Early online date10 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


  • adder
  • habitat management
  • habitat quality
  • heathland
  • predation
  • reptiles
  • thermoregulation
  • vegetation cover

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