Bat maps: The conservation crusade

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Posted July 3, 2013
This is Brandt's bat, a species of bat found in the UK. Credit: Dr. Chris Scott

This is Brandt’s bat, a species of bat found in the UK. Credit: Dr. Chris Scott

Conservation efforts have taken an important step forward, thanks to observations of bats – creatures that make up a quarter of all of the UK’s native mammal species.

In a paper published today, researchers at the University of Leeds describe how they recorded the echolocation calls of more than 15,000 bats during 120 walks in the Lake District to create maps that show the suitability of areas for bat habitation.

They are the most detailed large-scale habitat suitability maps ever created for bats in the UK, with a resolution of 50 metres.

The impact of the maps will extend far beyond bat conservation, the researchers say. “Since bats are particularly sensitive to changes in the environment, they are recognised as good indicators for the overall health of an ecosystem,” says Dr Chloe Bellamy from the University of Leeds, lead author of the paper.

To produce these detailed maps, the researchers studied the likelihood of finding bats in relation to the characteristics of both their immediate environment and those of the much wider landscape, giving important insights into how they are affected by changes to the countryside.

While the impact on the bats’ movements caused by urban cover, such as roads, varied among different species over small distances, the researchers found that they were all affected when you looked at a much larger area.

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