Large-scale citizen science improves assessment of risk posed by wind farms to bats in southern Scotland
Research commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and led by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) demonstrates the power of volunteers in helping to better understand the distribution of rare and vulnerable bat species.
The Southern Scotland Bat Survey was a pioneering citizen science project run in 2016. It aimed to engage the public by allowing people to borrow bat monitoring equipment for a few days to record bat activity. This approach enables the collection of high-quality data on bats, from a wider range of sites, than could feasibly be achieved by professional researchers alone.
Focusing on the southern third of Scotland, over 1,500 complete nights of bat recording were carried out across 715 one-kilometer squares, resulting in the collection of just under 400,000 bat recordings. Whilst data were collected for all bat species in the region, more detailed analyses were carried out on three species of bats, Leisler’s bat, noctule and Nathusius’ pipistrelle, because their preferred habitat and foraging behaviour make them particularly vulnerable to wind farms. Of the three species, Leisler’s bat and noctule were found to be more widespread and abundant than previously thought, although they remain localised and amongst the five most scarce species of bats in Scotland. Southern Scotland has one of the highest densities of wind farms in the country. The study has produced detailed data and mapping which will be invaluable in assisting decisions in the region, including assessing future onshore wind energy construction.
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