Today the European Environment Agency has released an official report on bat population trends in Europe. The biggest study of its kind ever undertaken, it involved monitoring 16 species of bat at 6,000 sites across the continent, including seven species across 617 and sites in the UK. Other countries to partake in the study included Germany, Hungry, The Netherlands, Slovakia and Portugal.
What does it show?
Utilizing data gathered between 1993 and 2011, the study reveals that there was a staggering 43% increase in bats at hibernation sites during those eighteen years. This suggests that the European bat population is experiencing a dramatic rise. Nine of the 16 bat species studied showed a substantial increase in their number, with only one, the grey long-eared bat, falling moderately.
Why was it undertaken?
In the second half of the 20th century it’s thought that bat numbers experienced significant declines throughout Europe. Amongst other factors, this has been attributed to intensive farming, the destruction of roosts and habitats, and the use of toxic timber-treatment chemicals, especially on roofs.
It is thought that the healthy increase in bat numbers could reflect the impact of conservation legislation and proactive efforts to preserve habitats.
EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx outlined the benefit that monitoring bats has for the environment as a whole, explaining that ‘monitoring bats also helps understand changes in wider ecosystems, including climate change, as they are highly sensitive to environmental change.’
What’s the future of the project?
The European Environment Agency now hopes to extend the project to include a greater number of species and countries, and a broader range of sites, in order to produce more conclusive evidence about bat population trends across Europe.
The project has also drawn attention to the absence of sufficient monitoring schemes in many European countries, and this is an issue the European Environment Agency hopes to tackle alongside the project.
Image © Jasja Dekker