Over 70% of the landscape is managed for farming, and not only produces half of our country’s food, but also provides a range of other ecosystem services, vital to our economy and native biodiversity.
The UK countryside is an incredibly beautiful and diverse landscape, comprising a range of special habitats including wildflower meadows, wetlands, hedgerows and woodlands, that all provide vital resources for foraging bats. However, due to the demands and pressures of more intensive and industrialised farming methods, many of these habitats have been lost or continue to be threatened; since the 1940’s over 97% of our wildflower meadows have disappeared and we have lost over 155,000km of hedgerows. Currently over 50% of our farmland species are declining. This is why BCT is working collaboratively with other conservation organisations, farmers and landowners to promote farming that will enable bats and other wildlife to thrive.
Back from the Brink
As part of the Back from the Brink programme, the Bat Conservation Trust has developed a single species project that aims to reverse the decline of the grey long-eared bat which is a species typically associated with farmland. Read more about this project here.
Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN)
The Nature Friendly Farming Network is a group of farmers who have come together to champion farming that is sustainable and good for nature. BCT is an advisory partner to this group, alongside a range of other NGO’s. More information can be found here.
Farm Wildlife sees 9 leading wildlife organisations brought together to provide a single source of best-practice management advice for wildlife on farmland. It aims to sustain farmland species and bring wider benefits across the farm enterprise. Read more here.
Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS)
Government funded support for farmers and landowners is currently under review. At the moment these schemes are under the umbrella of the European Union Common Agricultural Policy and post Brexit, there may be significant changes. The core payments landowners receive for owning agricultural land including the Basic Payment Scheme and Countryside Stewardship (the current agri-environment scheme) are due to be transitioned into the New Environmental Land Management Schemes (NELMS). BCT is currently working with other conservation NGO’s at a strategic level, to ensure that government policy surrounding agriculture and the environment adequately accounts for bats and the landscapes that they rely upon.
Effective and sustainable control of parasites in livestock is essential for animal health and welfare but can impact significantly on bat populations. Many livestock wormers (anthelmintics) contain avermectins, a series of drugs that can impact insect populations, particularly dung beetles which are a main food source of the greater horseshoe bat. Not only are dung beetles vital to some bat species, they offer significant benefits to farming by recycling nutrients and reducing parasite loads.
By avoiding avermectin use during the spring and summer (when bats are foraging the most) and keeping stock housed after treatment, this will significantly reduce the impact on insect populations and bats.
Other ways to reduce the use of potentially damaging wormers is to introduce ‘natural anthelmintic’ plants into grass swards, rotate paddocks so that they have a chance to rest and break parasite life cycles and by using mixed stocking to remove host specific parasites.
Useful information on sustainable parasite control can be found in the following websites: