Each month we focus on a species that benefits from Fair to Nature farming practises. During October, we look at bats in general. Whether you live in a rural or urban setting you may be noticing more bats flying around at dusk. It’s the mating season and they are also looking for suitable hibernation sites and building up their fat reserves for the colder months to come. Here, Jo Ferguson, the Built Environment Officer for the Bat Conservation Trust, explains why bats are an important part of the ecosystem…
Entering the sky just after dusk, British bats can be seen swooping through the twilight in even some of our most urban environments. We have 17 resident species here in the UK, ranging from a little as 4g in weight to 10 times that size, that occupy a nocturnal world through their ability to echolocate to visualise the landscape as they fly.
However, bats aren’t just fascinating, unique mammals, they are one of our bio-indicator species. Where you have a healthy bat population, you have a healthy local environment, not just for the plants and wildlife but for ourselves as well. All of our UK bat species are insectivorous, which means they munch through a huge number of our insect pest species, in fact even our smallest bats can eat over 3000 midges a night, a third of their body weight!
Sadly UK bat populations have dramatically declined in the last century, largely due to the loss of their roosting, foraging and commuting habitats. The Bat Conservation Trust’s National Bat Monitoring Programme has begun to see stabilising and even increasing in many bat population numbers, however there is a lot of ground to make up.
This is why all of our UK bat species are protected under domestic and international legislation and why there is such a concerted effort by the Bat Conservation Trust, local Bat Groups and research institutes to help these amazing animals.
Through the Fair to Nature programme, a joint initiative between Conservation Grade (CG), the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Norfolk Barbastrelle Study Group has been researching how bats make use of the CG agri-environment measures. These measures have been established on the CG farm at Pensthorpe and are designed to reverse the impact of intensive agricultural land management practices on wildlife, such as the addition of wildflower margins to fields. Initial results from the researchers at the UEA have recorded higher nocturnal bat activity in the wildflower areas compared to the surrounding landscape.
For more information on bats go to: www.bats.org.uk
To read previous Species Of the Month click on the links below:
July/August – Gatekeeper butterfly