Why map bats?
Bats are small, mobile, nocturnal and therefore elusive, so information on their distribution in the Yorkshire Dales was sparse. If we are to conserve bats, we need to know what species we have, where they are and what habitats they favour.
Aims of the project
Bats navigate and hunt using loud echolocation calls, so we can survey the distribution of foraging bats on night-time walks with high-spec bat detectors. Our aim was to record bat activity across the Dales on planned transects and use geo-referenced data to determine the detailed relationships between bats and the habitats they use. With good habitat data we could then produce distribution maps for all species for the entire National Park.
Improved bat detectors, and software we have developed to automatically detect and identify species, have allowed us to study 31 four kilometre transects across the Dales. Statistical analysis and computer modelling were used to produce GIS-based maps that give the probability of finding a particular species in a particular location. Maps for seven species are now being used by the park authority to inform conservation and planning decisions. Foraging bats, as expected, are concentrated around rivers and woodland in the bottom of the dales, but on warm, still nights hardy pipistrelle bats forage on the top of Pen-y-ghent!
Who is involved?
The project was funded by the University of Leeds and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and led by Prof. John Altringham. Data were collected by undergraduate and masters students from Leeds, organised and assisted by Dr Anita Glover and John Altringham. Dr Chloe Bellamy carried out the statistical modelling and mapping.