As the authority on bat conservation BCT's positions, policies, practice and guidance are based on the latest scientific evidence. Experts in the field from a number of academic institutions support BCT with technical advice, with Professor Paul Racey as BCT's Honorary Science and Conservation Adviser. BCT also support and drive forward conservation research collaborating on a number of scientific studies which contribute to the conservation of bat populations.
BCT has established an annual award, the Vincent Weir Scientific Award to reward and encourage research on the conservation biology of bats by new researchers.
Bats and the built environment
Maximising building design for biodiversity, University College London
Integrating biodiversity into the built environment is an increasingly important element of sustainable design. However, current biodiversity approaches taken by industry, planners and designers are often tokenistic, contributing little to overall ecological value and resilience. To address this issue, a four-year partnership study between BCT and the Centre for Urban Sustainability and Resilience at University College London was launched in September 2012. The project aims to overcome barriers to integrating biodiversity into the built environment by developing simple tools that will guide building sector professionals through the process of delivering biodiverse green infrastructure and by designing accessible systems that will begin to document and measure the value of green infrastructure both in relation to ecological resilience and socio-economics.
Bats and breathable roofing membranes, University of Reading
Several manufacturers are reporting breathable roofing membranes as 'bat friendly'. These claims have not been substantiated by any scientific research. In fact, there are an increasing number of reported cases where bats have died after becoming entangled by fibres that had been pulled loose and concerns have been raised following reports of roost abandonment. To address these concerns a four-year partnership study between BCT and the School of Construction Management and Engineering at the University of Reading was launched in 2009. Gaining an understanding of the impacts of the use of breathable membranes on bat roosts in roofs will allow us to disseminate findings and recommendations as a guidance document for use by both the building industry and conservation organisations.
Lighting, University of Bristol
Few studies have attempted to quantify the impact of artificial lighting on the foraging and commuting behaviour of bats. The bats and lighting project at the University of Bristol is supported by BCT. Research has focused on the threatened lesser horseshoe bat as well as other more widely distributed species such as the common pipistrelle.
Ecology and conservation of urban bats, University of Stirling
Green spaces within urban areas can be important for ameliorating the impacts of urbanisation on biodiversity, and can hold relatively rich wildlife communities. Understanding how different species use urban environments and how habitat management and urban planning can promote population persistence is therefore important in conserving them. Although it is well known that some bat species forage in urban gardens and parks, and are able to exploit opportunities created by man-made structures, such as using buildings as roost sites, little is known about the ecology of bats in urban environments. Whilst some studies have shown a general avoidance of urban areas by bats, others have suggested that urban environments may have a positive role to play in resource availability for some bat species, particularly in landscapes dominated by intensive agricultural land use.
The aim of this PhD is to investigate the ecology of bats in urban areas and how this is influenced by habitat composition and configuration of the surrounding landscape. Work is currently underway to assess resource availability and bat activity and abundance in urban woodlands. Future work will use data from BCT’s National Bat Monitoring Programme to investigate associations between urbanisation, species diversity and foraging activity.
Bats and churches
Bats, churches and the landscape: sustainable conservation of bats in the East of England, University of Bristol
In the early 1990’s BCT’s original Bats in Churches project estimated that 60% of pre-16th Century churches host bat roosts. However, bat use of churches sometimes causes damage to historic artefacts, difficulties in maintaining structures and problems for church users. SITA Trust and Natural England are funding BCT and the University of Bristol to conduct a PhD research study on soprano pipistrelles in East Anglian churches. The project will seek to understand why bats are attracted to certain churches, how they use churches and the surrounding habitat throughout the year as well as why they select certain locations within churches to roost. A regional survey will be undertaken to model the occurence of bats in relation to church and habitat data. The research will involve radiotracking and studies of roost microclimate conditions. In a small number of churches, mitigation approaches will also be trialled. The study aims to reduce the impacts of bats and safeguard long-term conservation of bats and heritage.
Improving mitigation success: Natterer’s bats in churches, University of Bristol
Natterer’s bats sometimes form large maternity colonies in churches, especially in East Anglia where they can cause problems. Defra are funding University of Bristol with BCT and Phililp Parker Associates as sub contractors to investigate the properties of churches and their immediate surrounding landscapes that attract bats. The study will draw on GIS, radio-tracking and data on surrounding habitat quality and microclimate characteristics of roosts. The project will involve modifying environmental conditions to encourage bats to relocate to alternative, less sensitive areas of churches and will involve the provision of alternative roosting areas both within and outside of church buildings. The project will draw on advice from Natural England, Defra, the Churches Building Council, English Heritage and National Trust, ensuring the work is in the interests of both bat and church conservation, addressing the concerns of all stakeholders.
Impact on bat populations of exclusion from roosts in houses, University of Bristol
In some circumstances, house owners or tenants are affected severely by the presence of a bat roost, for example in the case of genuine phobias. In exceptional circumstances, bats can be excluded from a roost in a house under license. Although a key requirement of current legislation is that licensed activities will not be detrimental to the population, very little is known about the real impact of exclusion on colonies and the status of local populations. Defra is funding research at the University of Bristol (with BCT and BTO as subcontractors) focused on the soprano pipistrelle, a species that is commonly the subject of domestic exclusion requests. The work will attempt to assess the impact of roost exclusion, where alternative roosts are not provided, on subsequent roosting and foraging behaviour and model the likely impact on local population status. The study aims to provide evidence that will lead to improvements in the implementation of the Habitats Directive. Natural England considers the research to be vital for determining whether their current licensing procedures are having a detrimental impact on bat conservation. Studies to assess how bats respond to exclusion will take place in 2012 and 2013 at three roost sites in each year (with six in total) with extensive planning of the study taking place this year. The research is overseen by a Project Advisory Group (PAG) which includes University of Bristol, BCT, Defra and Natural England. BCT and the PAG are committed to ensuring all relevant bat conservation and welfare issues are addressed. The PAG will examine aspects such as the criteria for site selection, methods and timing of exclusions, ethics, welfare, and conservation relevance to ensure the study minimises the impact on bats and bat roost owners and takes into account the interests of the wider community of batworkers, roost visitors and roost owners.
Bat conservation and bats and the landscape
Conservation biology of the grey long-eared bat, University of Bristol
Grey long-eared bats are extremely rare in Britain. The pre-breeding population might be as low as 1000 individuals, and three colonies in Dorset and one in Devon have become extinct in the past 40 years. If grey long-eared bats are to survive in Britain in the long term, it is vital that effective conservation measures are based on sound scientific research. Our scientific partnership project with the University of Bristol will inform our conservation policies.
Bats and the Landscape,University of East Anglia
This Phd research collaboration has been analysing data from BCT’s National Bat Monitoring Programme to provide an insight into the relationships between roost location, and field survey observations and landscape character. The research for this project was completed at the end of 2009 and current work is focused on submitting findings for publication in peer-reviewed journals.
Existence and Detection of Demographic Allee Effects, Université Paris-Sud
NBMP data is being used to study the existence and detection of demographic Allee effects. A demographic Allee effect describes a positive relationship between population growth and population size due to explicit or implicit social cooperation. Populations exhibiting an Allee effect show a threshold population size above which cooperation is most effective (causing increasing population growth rate), or below which cooperation breaks down (causing decreasing population growth rate). Demographic Allee effects pose a threat to populations of cooperative species, and a limitation to invasive species.
Current and future conservation status of European bats, University of Kent and the Institute of Zoology
Bats are an important component of biodiversity, comprising a fifth of all mammal species. They provide a number of essential ecosystem services such as insect regulation, pollination and seed dispersal, and evidence suggests they may act as an indicator of general ecosystem health. Since 2006, the Indicator Bat Program (iBats) has been collecting ultrasonic bat call data from car based surveys across Europe. This PhD will aim to look at the current and future conservation status of European bats. The partnership project will use this data to look at the current trends in bat populations as well as modelling habitat and climate associations of bat species to look at the potential impacts of future global climate change on bat species distributions and their future conservation status.