Habitat connectivity for bats in the Alpine region
Because of its near-natural state and landscape diversity, the Alpine area is characterised by a fauna rich in bat species. Due to the high demands that bats make on their habitat, they are particularly important for the biotope network. Bats are reliant on highly diverse and networked structures. Depending on the time of day and the season, they use a wide variety of habitats, which may be located several hundred kilometres apart. On the one hand, they need roosts; on the other, they need spaces that are suitable as hunting grounds, including near-natural forests and structurally rich cultivated landscapes.
A key outcome of the bat protection project is the production of comprehensive Guidelines for the Renovation of Buildings, which identify the roosting requirements of around 20 different bat species that make use of buildings for their roosting places. Many species of bat are heavily dependent on buildings for their roosts because natural hiding places have become rare in woodlands as a result of intensive forms of cultivation. During the restoration or renovation of old buildings, disturbances to the bats and their roosting places can therefore easily occur. The Guidelines draw on more than 230 case studies relating to the renovation of buildings, for the most part from the Alpine area. The Guidelines provide information about the ecology of the roosting places of the various species, including seasonal and spatial use and the key characteristics of the roosts. Drawing on experience, the bats’ reaction to disturbance and changes at the roost are described, and guidance for the renovation of buildings with roosting places is provided for each species.
Moreover, as part of the project, targeted measures have been taken to support the hunting grounds of the Lesser Mouse-Eared Bat (Myotis blythii). With this objective in mind, a cross-border concept was developed for the conservation of near-natural grassland. Through the targeted improvement of habitats, the aim is to increase the range of potential hunting grounds and the food supply and thus achieve a positive development in bat stocks. Depending on the region and conditions, a wide range of measures may be required to support the bats’ hunting grounds. In landscape which is mainly subject to intensive use, extensivisation of agricultural areas or the creation of meadows for extensive use can have a positive impact. In this context, the cutting dates and frequency of mowing play an important role, and it is also essential to refrain from using fertiliser. In other regions, however, a shift away from agriculture, and the resulting bush encroachment and reforestation, may pose a threat to potential hunting grounds, so other measures and tools must be developed for these areas. Furthermore, support for the hunting grounds of bats cannot be viewed in isolation from measures to protect their nurseries. A comprehensive strategy should therefore be developed which takes account of bats’ various habitat requirements.
Alongside other pilot projects for targeted bat conservation in the Alps, various publicity events and campaigns have been carried out within the framework of the “Living Space Network” Project, including an international conference and flanking measures to raise public awareness of bat conservation.
Within the framework of the INTERREG project, a range of highly diverse approaches has been developed which can help to protect bat populations in the Alps. The Guidelines for the Renovation of Buildings are an outstanding tool for bat-friendly renovation and restoration of buildings. However, the concepts devised can only be successful if they are applied in practice and continuously developed.
The project outcomes can provide a valuable basis for the planning of bat-friendly measures in the biotope network and offer a range of ideas at many different levels.
Contacts and further information
- INTERREG III B “Living Space Network”, Pilot Project Bats, and the Guidelines for the Renovation of Buildings:
http://www.lsn.tirol.gv.at/en/index.htm (de, en, it)