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Bat population in the spotlight

19 August 2013

​Staff and volunteers helping to monitor Jersey’s bats have taken the project a step further this year with the involvement of people on foot and on bicycles.

The monitoring work is part of a global project called iBats which monitors bat populations globally by recording the sounds bats use to navigate and find food. Bats are identifiable by the calls they make and data on Jersey’s bat habitats and patterns shows the state of Jersey’s ecosystems and helps track changes in global biodiversity.

Staff at the Department of the Environment, with help from volunteers, use GPS and smartphone technology with ultrasonic detectors to record bat echolocation calls along certain specified routes.
Recordings are made from a car travelling at about 15 mph and start half an hour after sunset. The routes around the Island are 20 – 25 miles long so that recordings of an hour and a half can be made encountering and recording hundreds of bats. This year though, for the first time, the team will be joined by a volunteer collecting data on foot, and others on bikes. This broadens the scope of the monitoring and covers places which cars can’t reach.

Indicators of global change

Volunteers around the world, from Mexico to Mongolia, help collect bat sounds so that species change can be monitored and assessed. Bats, along with birds and butterflies, are important biodiversity indicator species and their population trends can be used to monitor the health of ecosystems and the impact of global change.

Natural Environment Officer David Tipping explained that monitoring routes are repeated twice a year and, over time, build a comprehensive picture of the Island’s bat population, the habitat bats use and the abundance and diversity of local species.
“Bats are highly sensitive to climate change and as mammals which roost in buildings and other manmade structures, are particularly vulnerable to the pressure of development. Monitoring the local population allows us to track changes and increase our knowledge of their local status and distribution but can also contribute important information on global biodiversity,” said Mr Tipping.

Serving the eco-system

“Bats are amazing creatures. They’re the only mammals that have perfected true flight and can be found everywhere in the world apart from the polar regions and a few remote islands. Bats provide a number of eco-system services and are meant to be capable of consuming as many as 3000 midges, mosquitos and other flying insects in just one night.”

The monitoring will help provide the background knowledge needed to ensure that bat populations are conserved, fulfilling Jersey’s obligations under a number of national and international agreements.
iBats (Indicator Bats) is a partnership between the Zoological Society of London and the UK Bat Conservation Trust which is working with both local agencies in Britain, and internationally.
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