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Research and Conservation

Data from the National Bat Monitoring Program is used by researchers from a wide variety of academic institutions and conservation organisations. This is a summary of some the recent research and conservation work that has benefited from NBMP data.

Climate change

A PhD project at the University of Bristol is using data from the NBMP Roost Count to investigate the effect of climate change and agri-environment schemes on the population recovery of greater horseshoe bat. So far this research has shown that higher colony growth rates are associated with higher temperatures in the current spring and lower levels of precipitation in the previous spring. It has also shown that larger colonies tend to be found in landscapes with more broadleaf woodland and grassland, a higher density of linear features and less artificial light at night. See Froidevaux, J, Boughey, KL, Barlow, KE & Jones, G, 2017, Factors driving population recovery of the greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) in the UK: implications for conservation’. Biodiversity and Conservation.

NBMP data contributed towards an assessment of the effect of annual variation in weather on population trends of 501 mammal, bird, aphid, butterfly and moth species, undertaken by the British Trust for Ornithology. This research found evidence that climate trends have significantly affected population trends of 15.8% of species assessed, demonstrating that climate change has already caused large-scale population changes of some species and has had a significant impact on some invertebrate groups. See Martay, B.; Brewer, M.J.; Elston, D.A.; Bell, J.R.; Harrington, R.; Brereton, T.M.; Barlow, K.E.; Botham, M.S.; Pearce-Higgins, J.W, 2016, Impacts of climate change on national biodiversity population trends. Ecography

White Nose Syndrome

BCT have joined a study being undertaken by Joseph Hoyt at the University of California Santa Cruz, investigating the distribution and spread of Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus responsible for White Nose Syndrome in North American bats, across Europe, Asia and North America. NBMP volunteers have collected swab samples from bats and hibernacula walls at selected NBMP Hibernation Survey sites under licence from Natural England. These samples are now being processed and the results will be made available at the end of this year.

Woodland use and management

BCT are collaborating with Forest Research to model the ecological and human factors impacting woodland bat species’ distributions at local, regional and landscape scales, using data from the NBMP and other sources. These models will be used to predict current distributions of woodland bat species nationally, and locally and understand how distributions and assemblages of bat species may change, using future climate and land use scenarios.

Conservation and Monitoring

NBMP data contributed to the 2016 State of Nature report. This landmark report, a collaboration between 53 organisations led by the RSPB, represents the most comprehensive assessment to date of the status of species at land and sea. The report shows that the majority of species assessed (56%) are in decline while 15% have disappeared already. It also shows how appropriate legislation and education has helped the partial recovery of a number of bat species such as the soprano pipistrelle.

Data from the NBMP Hibernation Survey were used to update the European Bat Population Trend Indicator, produced by Statistics Netherlands and Slovenian Centre for Cartography of Fauna and Flora. The first iteration of the indicator, covering the period 1993-2011, found that overall the species included in the indicator have increased by 43 % at hibernation sites. Individually, nine species studied showed a positive European trend and one species (Plecotus austriacus) showed a significant decline. The updated indicator will be published in the coming year.

Data from the NBMP Roost Count are being used by the Bats in Churches Partnership for an exciting new project that has been awarded funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The aims of this project, a collaboration between Natural England, the Church of England, Bat Conservation Trust, Historic England and the Churches Conservation Trust, are to trial and perfect new techniques to enable bats and church congregations to live together; build up professional expertise and volunteer skill to share the best solutions with hundreds more churches and bring together church communities and bat enthusiasts to create a shared understanding and appreciation of England’s historic places of worship and our rare flying mammals.

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