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Going Batty

BatRegular readers may remember how we looked at how some species have managed to cross the Pacific as a result of the tsunami in Japan. Well, not just things attached to blocks – check out this guy, a Columbus crab who started life in the Bermuda area and has just been found in Chesil beach, Dorset. He’s only 1cm big and probably made it across the Atlantic on fishing debris. I hope he manages to adapt to his new home. The more debris that floats around the ocean, the more invader species we are likely to see popping up where they shouldn’t be – which is bad for them and bad for the other animals and plants that live there – yet another reason to make sure that we do not drop things that do not belong in the sea.

In a piece of good news, the European Environment Agency have released a report saying that bat populations have increased by over 40% between 1993 and 2011. If, like me, you have an irrational fear of bats (not sure why, just do), this might not seem like brilliant news, but, like everything else, bats are important to our ecosystem as they pollinate plants (500 species rely on bats for pollination) and eat insects. By eating insects, bats are also incredibly important to farms, as they provide an eco friendly and chemical free insecticide service.

Bats struggled a lot in the second half of the last century due to certain types of farming, deliberate killing and loss of habitat. Some bats only live in large woodland areas and so with deforestation in Europe, finding somewhere to live has become a big problem. Their numbers were getting worryingly low so 20 years ago a conservation programme was started that focused on saving habitats and monitoring and hey presto! More bats! Although obviously it’s not quite that simple. Bats tend to live a long time and not reproduce very often (with usually only one pup at a time), and in animals that reproduce in this way it can be hard to reverse a decline in numbers because each bat will only give birth to a very small number of pups over a long period of time. This makes it incredibly important to a) make sure that the damage doesn’t happen in the first place and b) when it does, focus on long term solutions rather than expecting quick miracles. In my experience, with ecological work, it’s always important to focus on long term benefit rather than the shorter term, as a result, working in conservation can often feel like a long and thankless slog, so it’s nice to report on success stories such as this one.

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Blog post by Linda Seward of Seward Technical Writing, providers of original science content.

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