The barbastelle bat is mainly a woodland species. It uses old buildings and trees as summer roosts and underground sites and other suitable places such as hollow trees for hibernation. Riparian woodland may form an important habitat in some areas. It feeds mainly on lepidoptera taken in flight, but may also glean insects and spiders from vegetation.
This species is widely distributed in England and Wales with centres of population in south-west and mid-west England, and Norfolk. It is believed to be rare in the UK, with only 340 records since 1802. Only one UK maternity roost and less than 30 hibernation sites are currently known. The most recent UK population estimate is approximately 5000 individuals but the overall population trend is not known. The barbastelle bat is widespread in continental Europe, but appears to be rare almost everywhere.
This species is listed on Appendix II of the Bonn Convention (and its Agreement on the Conservation of Bats in Europe, 1994), Appendix II of the Bern Convention (and its appropriate Recommendations) and Annexes II and IV of the EC Habitats and Species Directive. It is protected under Schedule 2 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations, 1994 (Regulation 38) and Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals classifies this species as Vulnerable.
Current factors causing loss or decline
Threats to this species are poorly understood, but its low population density and slow population growth make it particularly vulnerable to factors such as:
Further loss and fragmentation of ancient deciduous woodland habitat.
Loss, destruction and disturbance of roosts or potential roosts in buildings, trees and underground sites.
A reduction in numbers of insect prey due to habitat simplification acting through factors such as fertiliser use and intensive grazing.
The barbastelle bat is the subject of a Species Recovery Programme Phase 1 project funded by English Nature. It is included in the DETR sponsored National Bat Monitoring Programme which aims to establish baseline data for the species and to propose a long-term monitoring protocol.
A network using local bat group volunteers working closely with SNCO staff is established and continues to develop. These people are routinely consulted over development proposals and other issues relating to Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Some of the known hibernation sites have been protected by grilling; some are within SSSIs.
Research is being carried out in Norfolk, Surrey and Devon with the aim of locating roosts and identifying habitat requirements of the barbastelle bat.
A pan-European meeting organised by the IUCN Coordinating Panel for the Conservation of Bats in Europe was held in 1997 and reviewed current knowledge of the barbastelle bat and its conservation requirements.
Action plan objectives and targets
Maintain the known range.
Maintain the size of the known populations.
Increase the total population size of this species in the UK.
Proposed actions with lead agencies
Policy and legislation
Pursue the principles and requirements of the Agreement on the Conservation of Bats in Europe. (ACTION: CCW, DETR, EA, NE, FA, FE, LAs, MAFF, WOAD)
When next reviewed, consider targeting the Woodland Grant Scheme (Project 3), Forest Design Plans, Countryside Stewardship Schemes, ESAs, and other relevant agri-environment and forestry schemes to land in the vicinity of important roost sites, with the aim of enhancing terrestrial and aquatic habitats used by barbastelle bats. Consideration should be given to the retention of hollow, veteran, dying and dead trees in hedgerows and woodlands. (ACTION: CCW, DETR, NE, FA, FE, MAFF, WOAD)
Ensure that consideration is given to habitat surrounding key bat sites when developing structure plans and assessing planning applications. (ACTION: CCW, NE, LAs)
Ensure that the requirements of the barbastelle bat are considered during the development of Local Environment Agency Plans in areas where this species occurs. (ACTION: EA)
Site safeguard and management
Ensure the long-term protection of maternity roosts, key hibernation roosts and, where appropriate, the habitat surrounding these sites. Consider notifying such areas as SSSIs where it is necessary to achieve this. (ACTION: CCW, NE, FA, FE)
Species management and protection
When appropriate, advise relevant project officers for Countryside Stewardship, the Woodland Grant Scheme and other forestry and agri-environment schemes of the location of key roost sites, their importance and appropriate habitat management for the surrounding areas. (ACTION: CCW, NE, FA, FE, MAFF)
Establish links with organisations associated with the care and restoration of old buildings in the vicinity of barbastelle bat sites, in order to encourage provision for the requirements of the species within old buildings. (ACTION: CCW, NE, LAs)
Advise tree surgeons, tree wardens and foresters operating in the vicinity of barbastelle bat sites on tree management practices which will assist the conservation of this species. (ACTION: CCW, NE, FA, LAs)
Continue to support the current network providing bat conservation advice including the use of licensed bat workers/wardens for roost visits. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Future Research and Monitoring
Continue to search for maternity roosts and hibernation sites. On locating such sites, undertake autecological research and monitoring into the roosting requirements and foraging habitats of this species, with a view to refining habitat protection and management practices. (ACTION: CCW, NE, FC, JNCC )
Research the food and feeding requirements of the species. (ACTION: CCW, NE, JNCC)
Develop and maintain a national database for bat records. (ACTION: JNCC)
Consider the recommendations of the National Bat Monitoring Programme once they are produced. (ACTION: DETR)
Communications and Publicity
Raise awareness of bat conservation issues amongst owners of large country houses and farm buildings through relevant organisations and appropriate property and farming magazines. (ACTION: CADW, CCW, EH, NE)
Maintain discussions on the conservation of the species on a pan-European scale through the IUCN Coordinating Panel for the Conservation of Bats in Europe and the European Bat Agreement. (ACTION: CCW, DETR, NE)
Raise awareness of the importance of old trees as roost and hibernation sites. (ACTION: CCW, NE, FA)
Links with other action plans
Originally published in: UK Biodiversity Group Tranche 2 Action Plans - Volume I: Vertebrates and vascular plants (June 1998, Tranche 2, Vol I, p35)