Night LIFE: Programme contributions to the Year of the Bat
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EU financial support from the LIFE Nature and Biodiversity Components remains an important source of conservation support for Europe’s endangered nocturnal species, especially bats.
Bats are the World’s only mammals capable of sustained flight and records indicate that the bats living today in our towns and countryside are very similar to those from 50 million years ago. Europe is home to a diverse collection of different types of bat and over 50 of these species are classified as being at risk. Threats to the conservation status of bats often relate to the loss of habitat features like roosts and feeding areas. An increase in insecticide use has further reduced food sources for bats, which are themselves highly susceptible to pesticide poisoning incidents.
The fate of bats’ misfortunes can often go unnoticed but a proactive international publicity campaign has been running during 2011 to raise awareness about bats and their conservation needs. This Year of the Bat campaign is organised as a joint initiative between The Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS) and The UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).
Twelve months of global events are underway that aim to (among other things): encourage people, organisations and governments to participate in bat conservation activities; improve public perceptions and images of bats; highlight links between bats and biodiversity; as well as promote international cooperation on bat conservation, research and cross-border projects.
Numerous LIFE projects have been, and continue to be, involved with providing such nature conservation support for Europe’s endangered bat species. These projects thus can be seen to complement the objectives of the Year of the Bat, and include for example:
- France’s Life Chiro Med project (LIFE08 NAT/F/000473), which is targeting its €1.16 million of LIFE co-finance to boost populations of Greater horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) and Geoffroy’s bat (Myotis emarginatus). It is doing this by enhancing and expanding nursery colony sites and hibernation roosts. Foraging areas in woodlands are also being developed alongside bat-friendly pastoral practice in partnership with livestock farmers.
- In Slovenia, the Life at Night project (LIFE09 NAT/SI/000378) has an EU budget of €294 000 which is ear-marked for bats and other nocturnal animals adversely affected by increases in urban light pollution. Funded from the LIFE Programme’s Biodiversity Component, this project has high demonstration potential for other parts of Europe where lighting used to display cultural heritage buildings is disrupting habitat functionality for species of the night. New forms of lighting technology are being tested by the project which concludes in 2014.
- Romania’s mountains host a variety of protected bat species that are benefitting from €643 000 of LIFE funds within the framework of the LIFE08NAT/RO/000504 project. Here, essential baseline information about bat habitats and behaviour is being collected to inform management plans for bat species in Natura 2000 sites. In parallel, practical conservation measures are controlling public access to sensitive sites, introducing alternative forest-based roosting structures, and clearing hazards in bat cave habitats.
- Belgium’s bats from Flanders are the focus of a €946 000 LIFE grant (LIFE06 NAT/B/000095) aimed at protecting endangered pond bats (Myotis dasycneme), notch-eared bats (Myotis emarginatus) and the Bechstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii). An action plan has been designed for these species which pays special attention to large water bodies favoured by migratory bats. Innovative approaches to improving urban bat habitats have also been introduced using novel artificial roosts suspended under transport bridges.
- Another of LIFE’s bat projects funded from the Programme’s Biodiversity budget shall start in Slovakia in a few months time. This LIFE10 NAT/SK/000079 project has been allocated nearly €756 000 of LIFE funds for four years of conservation work which will involve a two-pronged approach targeting both endangered bat and bird species. Management practices for improving the conservation status of bats will be introduced at 40 sites where the installation of some 400 nesting boxes is foreseen.
A range of other LIFE projects provide contributions to the Year of the Bat. Discover more about these through the LIFE website’s thematic lists and database.