Pipistrelle bats in Scotland have significantly increased in number since 2009 according to new research.
The findings were revealed in a report from Scottish Natural Heritage and the Bat Conservation Trust. The Bat Conservation Trust did most of the survey work and, as it is made up of volunteers, this makes this a large and long-term citizen science project.
Bats have had a hard time of it lately, with the soprano pipistrelle and daubentons bat populations remaining steady since 1999, following years of decline. The common pipistrelle also suffered declines in the 1990’s but a lack of data had meant their populations were a bit of a mystery. This study shows that since 2009 the population has increased by 79%, a huge jump by any standard. It is probable that the increase is, in part, due to bat species now having legal protection. The exact causes are likely to be numerous and even the experts are not quite sure what they are. Anne Youngman, Bat Conservation Trust’s Scottish officer, said: “It’s difficult to say why common pipistrelle appear to be recovering from the large historical decline. It’s really important that we encourage even more volunteers to help us continue and expand our monitoring efforts so that we can see how bats are faring over the coming years.”
It is encouraging that volunteers drove this project and that people are showing an interest in bats. Bats are often overlooked because people don’t think about them or are just generally freaked out about small flying creatures. Bats are quite interesting, intelligent animals with complex social interactions. Plus, they are the only flying mammals and that’s pretty cool.
From an ecological point of view, bats are crucial. It is commonly quoted that common pipistrelle bats consume up to 3000 midges in a year. This is obviously a bit of a guess but bats are important in habitats due to predating insect populations.
Bats are also good indicator species, this means that they show how healthy a habitat is. The healthier an area the more bats there are, generally speaking, as bats require a variety of factors to live in an area. The rise in bat numbers is therefore significant as it shows that habitats are probably becoming healthier.
It is important to remember though, that the common pipistrelle is not the only bat that needs monitoring. Robert Raynor, SNH’s mammal expert explains; “Although this is certainly good news, many threats still exist for bats. There are nine or ten species of bat in Scotland, and we still need to improve our survey coverage so we can better understand what is happening with their numbers – not just the most common three.”
The Bat Conservation Trust is always looking for volunteers and are active throughout the country. The link is below so if you are interested, do please get involved and in saving an iconic animal.