Adders could be facing a risk of extinction across Britain

Data from a long-running citizen science project shows that 90 per cent of adder populations are in decline.

A male adder warming itself in the spring sunshine. © Sandra Standbridge/Getty

Recent research published in The Herpetological Journal shows that adder populations in the UK are in decline, which could lead to them being restricted to only a few sites within the next 20 years.

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The data was collected over the last 11 years as part of the ‘Make the Adder Count’ project, run by the Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK.

Adder coiled up in moss

“Our analysis shows that 90 per cent of the sites surveyed have small populations, and on average these small populations are declining,” says Dr Emma Gardner, a researcher from the University of Reading.

“When surveyors visit these sites, they typically record fewer than ten adders. Only ten per cent of sites have large populations, which seem to be doing ok,” she says. “If these trends continue, adders will become restricted to just a few sites in the UK, significantly increasing the extinction risk for this priority species in Britain.”

The study also indicated key threats to adder populations, with disturbance by the public and habitat maintenance being the main concerns.

Public disturbance can range from accidental trampling to attempts to take photographs of the adders, which causes the animals distress.

Adders hibernate in the same spot year on year and destruction of these sights can leave them very vulnerable. In addition, overgrazing can remove important cover from predators.

Research into adder populations is ongoing and the results so far have shown that in the UK the adder is currently under threat.

“Our study has shown just how vulnerable our UK adder populations are,” says Dr Gardner. “And how important it is that we act now to help conserve our adders, before it is too late.”

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Read the full paper in The Herpetological Journal.