Evidence to inform guidance regarding bats in churches

Many questions remain on the ecology and behaviour of church roosting bats that need answering to inform guidance. These knowledge gaps sometimes restrict the quality of the information, advice and options that can be offered (in line with legislation) to progress building repair work or solutions to manage the impact of bats on churches. A number of studies have been undertaken recently to address these evidence needs and this section outlines findings from studies BCT has been collaborating on.

Management of bats in churches

Natterer’s bats sometimes form large maternity colonies in churches, where they can cause problems. To address these issues and find practical solutions the University of Bristol has undertaken studies of Natterer's bats in churches, funded by Defra and English Heritage.

Bats, churches and the landscape: sustainable conservation of bats in the East of England

In the early 1990’s BCT’s National Bats in Churches Survey, carried out as part of the Bats in Churches Project (Sargent, 1995) estimated that 60% of medieval (pre-16th Century) churches hosted bat roosts. However, the use of churches by bats can sometimes cause damage to historic artefacts, difficulties in church repair and maintenance and concerns for church users. SITA Trust and Natural England funded BCT and the University of Bristol to conduct a PhD research study, by Madeleine Ryan, supervised by Professor Gareth Jones, on soprano pipistrelle bats in East Anglian churches. The project focused on East Anglia because of the high proportion of enquires to the Bat Helpline from churches in this region. Soprano pipistrelles (together with common pipistrelles) are one of the species of bats about which churches most commonly seek advice from the Helpline. They can form summer maternity roosts with large numbers of bats in churches and houses.

The project sought to understand why soprano pipistrelle bats select certain churches, how they use churches and the surrounding habitat throughout the year and why they choose certain locations within churches to roost. A regional survey was undertaken to establish the occurrence of bats in relation to church and habitat data. Detailed research involved radio-tracking bats at two medieval and one Victorian church, and studies of roost microclimate conditions and bat activity throughout the year in medieval churches. Bat boxes were trialled as an approach to mitigate the impact of the roosting bats on the church community. The study aimed to reduce the impacts of bats and safeguard long-term conservation of bats and built heritage.

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