The European Environment Agency (EEA) has released a comprehensive study showing that bat populations in Europe are increasing after historic declines. The study looks at trends from 16 of the 45 bat species found across the continent, compiling data from ten existing monitoring schemes in 9 countries, for the first time.
The study, published as a Technical Report titled 'European bat population trends – A prototype biodiversity indicator,' also developed a prototype European-scale indicator of bat population trends. According to the study, bat populations appear to have increased by 43% at hibernation sites between 1993 and 2011, with a relatively stable trend since 2003. The apparent population increase of most species reflects the impact of national and European conservation legislation, species and site protection, and targeted conservation measures, particularly under the EUROBATS agreement, the study concludes.
Emphasizing that many bat species are still endangered, EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx stressed that monitoring bats helps understand changes in wider ecosystems, including climate change, as bats are highly sensitive to environmental change. European bat populations had previously declined significantly, due to intensifying agriculture, changes in land use, intentional killing and destruction of roosts. Despite the promising population increases found by this study, it says bats still should be considered vulnerable.
Data for the study was collected in Austria, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, the UK and the German states of Bavaria and Thuringia. The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), the Dutch Mammal Society (DMS) and Statistics Netherlands (SN) are among the organizations supporting the study.