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What affects our bat populations?

It is generally accepted that bat populations in the UK underwent significant declines in the last century, particularly since the mid-1900s, and there have also been significant range contractions in some species (Stebbings 1988; Harris et al. 1995; Haysom et al. 2010).

The main reasons for these declines are thought to have included:

  • increasing agricultural intensification
  • loss of natural habitat
  • loss of roosts through development and exclusion from buildings
  • direct and indirect impacts of pesticides (for example timber treatment)

The National Bat Monitoring Programme, which has been collecting information on the status of bats in the UK since 1997, provides information on more recent changes in bat populations, suggesting that populations of at least some species have now started to stabilise or recover from these losses.  Click here to see the UK Biodiversity Indicator for bats which shows recent changes in population size for a composite index of eight widespread bat species.

In order to ensure that bat conservation is effective in the UK and that action is targeted towards the species and habitats where it is most needed, it is important to understand the key drivers of changes in bat populations. Even though bats benefit from legal protection in the UK and targeted conservation action, for example through the UK Biodiversity Framework, some of the historical pressures on bats still remain and bats also face new threats.  

On the threats to bats page we present background information on some of the factors that are likely to be important in affecting bat populations in the UK in the recent past, currently and into the future.



Stebbings RE (1988) Conservation of European Bats. Christopher Helm, London.

Harris S, Morris P, Wray S, Yalden D (eds) ( 1995) A Review of British Mammals: Population Estimates and Conservation Status of British Mammals Other Than Cetaceans. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough, UK.

Haysom KA, Jones G, Merrett D, Racey PA (2010) Bats. In: Silent Summer. The State of Wildlife in Britain and Ireland. (Ed N Maclean ) pp259-280. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


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Bat Helpline

0345 1300 228