Why study farmland bats?

Bat populations declined significantly in Britain during the 20th century due to a combination of factors including loss of roost and feeding sites. Bats’ roosts in Britain are protected under legislation, but foraging sites are unprotected making them susceptible to land use changes. As over 25% of land in Britain is arable farmland, it is important that we understand how we can reduce the impacts of agriculture on bat feeding sites.

All 18 species of bat in Britain feed on insects such as midges and beetles. Agri-environmental schemes (AES) provide habitats which support an abundance of insects and may present favourable foraging opportunities for bats. It is vital to determine exactly which habitats on farmland are beneficial for bats in order provide measures to support the UK’s bat population. Not only are bats an important part of the UK’s wildlife, indicative of a healthy ecosystem, but they are also essential for pest management. It is therefore crucial that the foraging requirements of bats are investigated so that farmland may be managed accordingly.

The project

Our project aims to investigate AES habitat requirements of bats in Hampshire and Dorset, through focused surveys using a network of farms. This work will help to advance current knowledge of bat farmland ecology by identifying key habitats for farmland bat conservation. To achieve our aim, acoustic surveys will take place on 15 farms using SM3 bat detectors. The data collected will be used to answer the following questions:

(Q1) Do specific AES management options influence bat activity?

(Q2) Does the use of specific AES field boundary habitats vary between bat species?

(Q3) Does general bat activity or foraging activity on specific AES management options vary seasonally with flowering times of AES habitats?

This project offers a unique opportunity to provide advice to farmers and land managers nationwide on farmland bat conservation. After the survey data has been analysed habitats on arable land that are attractive to bats will be promoted to farmers to aid bat conservation. Guidelines on habitat management for bats will also be produced and circulated.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the AgriBats project or are interested in volunteering, please contact Niamh McHugh at GWCT, Fordingbridge, Hampshire, SP6 1EF. Tel: 01425 651057, email: nmchugh@gwct.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @AgriBats.