Putting UK Bats on the map

Carried out by: Forest Research

Summary Description:

This is a two-year project that will provide a key evidence base for all woodland owners, managers and others with a regulatory responsibility to account for bat species when planning and carrying out woodland work and developing national guidance and forestry strategies.

To make consideration of bats more straightforward and well-informed, habitat suitability modelling (HSM) will provide open access maps that predict the likely presence of bat species in woodlands, alongside information on the underlying ecological and management drivers.

Coupled with the modelling will be the first UK working trial of a woodland monitoring technique designed under contract for Defra. Species data gathered from this trial will be fed into the HSM to test and improve predictions. This trial will inform the development of future national citizen science monitoring techniques under the umbrella of Bat Conservation Trust's National Bat Monitoring programme.

Timescale: 2017-2019

SFT Funds Awarded: £10,000

Project Outcomes:

For actions aimed at halting biodiversity declines to be effective, significant evidence gaps must be filled. Information on woodland-specialist bat species is scarce because of the difficulties in surveying for bats in these structurally complex environments. This impedes conservation efforts and complicates the design and implementation of woodland management plans aimed at protecting bats and enhancing their habitats. More accurate and cost-effective methods are needed to provide reliable data on the activity levels and distributions of these rare and inconspicuous species.

Over two survey seasons, the Bat Conservation Trust and Forest Research-led project, ‘Putting UK Woodland Bats on the Map’, has worked with volunteers across four study areas to pilot methods and technologies for surveying woodlands for bats. The aim was to develop, for the first time, a citizen science approach that could be carried out at a large enough scale to provide species- and family-specific trend data on bats in woodlands. In addition to comparing the content and quality of the acoustic data recorded using different devices, practical issues such as equipment affordability and user-friendliness were considered. The findings are being fed into the development of the British Bat Survey, a new monitoring scheme under development by National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP).

As well as delivering a baseline for long-term monitoring, the species records collected from the survey are being incorporated into a modelling framework for predicting species distributions at national, regional and local scales. This robust, hierarchical approach is important for identifying the environmental factors influencing a species’ habitat suitability and enables the impacts of potential environmental change to be assessed. Once validated, the spatially-explicit outputs can be used to inform targeted woodland- to landscape-scale decision-making and strategies in bat conservation.

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