Log in | Register
23/03/2020

Let's make the built environment a stronghold for our bats

Words:

The relationship between bats and human beings is in many ways unique, says Jo Ferguson.

The relationship between bats and human beings is in many ways unique. As natural roost sites such as trees and caves have declined, many of the UK’s 18 bat species have turned to man-made structures as summer and winter roosts.

Our most widespread species are all strongly associated with buildings, using features that replicate natural ones that have been lost: lifted tiles instead of lifted bark, or cavity walls instead of tree cavities.  

Which of our 18 resident species could be present depends on where you are. Greater and lesser horseshoe bats are nationally rare, yet locally common in the South West. But common and soprano pipistrelles and brown long-eared bats are found in houses throughout the British Isles.

Bats don’t use the same site to roost in all year round, but move as they require. In summer, female bats gather in a maternity roost to have babies. In winter, bats use hibernation roosts. When hibernating, they’ll use damp, cool areas such as cellars or an ice house; meanwhile, summer maternity roosts are warm and dry.  

“This is bad news for bats, but also for us – because a good bat population indicates a functioning ecosystem”

As they are ‘roost faithful’, the loss of a single roost site can have a massive impact on bat populations. Loss of roosts and foraging areas have caused huge declines in UK bat populations over the past century.  

This is bad news for bats, but also for us – because a good bat population indicates a functioning ecosystem. This means somewhere healthy for plants and animals to live, but also directly benefits our own environment and our own physical and mental wellbeing. In addition, all of our bat species eat insects, helping to cut pest damage to crops and gardens.

To restore our bat populations, all British bat species and their roosts are fully protected under the law, including when roosts aren’t occupied. Due diligence must be given to protected species at the start of any development project. This will also avoid delays and/or increased costs, including fines for breaking the law. There’s a wealth of ecological expertise available to guide the project while protecting bats. It’s a myth that bats prevent building or development works; it’s all about planning well ahead.

Enhancement measures for wildlife are now often required by local planning departments for new developments and appreciated by many homeowners. Bats want what we want – a safe place to raise their young or see out the winters, and a good meal.

Jo Ferguson is the built environment manager for the Bat Conservation Trust

Image credit | iStock

Tags

FEATURES
Email Newsletter Sign Up