Friday, 21 April 2017

Swift Ecology blog on contributing to the BCT and CIEEM mitigation projects

There is currently a lack of evidence on the effectiveness of mitigation and compensation strategies for bats affected by development. The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) in partnership with the University of Exeter, and the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) have both secured funding for separate but complementary projects to fill this evidence gap.

The success of these projects is strongly dependent on receiving mitigation case studies from ecologists - from consultants through to local authority ecologists.

Lisa Kerslake from Swift Ecology, who has taken the time to contribute to the questionnaire, tells us why she believes it is so important….

How long have you been involved in bat conservation and ecological consultancy?

My first introduction to bat conservation came in the late ‘80s while working for the then Nature Conservancy Council.  My desk was next to the species officer, who frequently brought bats into the office that were recovering from various injuries.  In particular I remember getting up to make tea and discovering, with a degree of shock and a few expletives, that there was a very cross serotine clinging to my jeans!  It had somehow escaped from its box (I never found out how…..). 

More recently, we set up Swift Ecology in 2007 and although I’d worked as an ecological consultant for a few years before this, my involvement in bat work increased exponentially  from this time.

What is the most satisfying part of your job and the most challenging?

 The most satisfying parts are those that involve some direct wildlife encounter: a maternity roost of lesser horseshoes with their pups near Malvern, which brought me near tears; showing a BLE to a nervous or sceptical householder/builder and seeing their astonished reaction when the ears unfurl; releasing a BLE fully recovered from a damaged wing, after I had cared for it for several months (I have a particular soft spot for BLEs). 

One of the most challenging things I’ve had to deal with happened in fact only last week: attending court to see a landowner who had completely destroyed a bat roost get an £83 fine despite so much effort by me, my colleagues and BCT; bitterly disappointing.  I also feel that the recent and ongoing changes to licensing within NE are going to pose challenge of a different magnitude, particularly in the context of the impending doom of Brexit; I think the threat to bats and other wildlife is potentially now greater than it has ever been. 

How did you hear about the BCT and CIEEM mitigation projects and what prompted you to contribute to it?

I have been banging on for years about the importance of bat mitigation and lack of evidence for what works, and have with colleagues prepared several talks and articles on the subject; consequently I somehow found myself involved in the steering group for the project from the outset.  As a result it would have been slightly embarrassing if I had not contributed! 

How much of your time did it take to contribute your case study? Do you mind mentioning a bit about it?

We have actually contributed 18 case studies; this took me no more than a couple of hours to upload, though I did have invaluable help from other staff (thanks Charlie and Josh!) helping to pull together the relevant information.  Our case studies include barn conversions, demolition & new house build, subdivision of a farmhouse into three residences, restoration of listed buildings, and a church where the bell housing was being replaced; so quite varied.  In nearly all cases some type of bat loft was constructed as well as the inevitable bat boxes.  The one I enjoyed most was a large barn conversion in Oxfordshire; the clients were lovely, which always helps, but the stand out feature resulted from a call from the builders once work was under way to say they’d found a few bats; when I looked behind the electricity meter I discovered not pips/BLEs as I was expecting, but 3 torpid barbastelles!  A few involuntary words were uttered (to the surprise of the gathered builders).

What approach does your company take towards mitigation? What’s your gut feeling about what works and what doesn’t?

I’ve long believed that all the surveys in the world will not benefit bat conservation if the mitigation is inadequate or doesn’t work.  We have always tried to get some type of bat loft if BLEs or Natterer’s bats were present, even in small numbers; that has become very difficult and now it seems to be the norm not to.  I sense that retaining roosts in situ is more successful than relocating them (e.g. to spaces above new garages), but this is often difficult or impossible, and nor is it necessarily that simple.  For example, we have no real idea of the function disused agricultural barns might play in relation local bat populations, because we rarely study them year round; I therefore feel it’s highly unlikely that retaining within a converted barn a space the size of a house loft will serve the same function as that which has been lost.

What would you say to anyone who is unsure about contributing to the projects?

The dearth of evidence in relation to bat mitigation/compensation has formed part of so many conversations I’ve had with other consultants over the past few years, that I find it hard to understand why anyone would not contribute in order to help us all do the job better in future.  Following an evidence-based approach is not only easier to justify to clients, it is bound to give better results for bat conservation.  So I would say this is an incredible opportunity to make a difference – please take it.   

Contributing to the mitigation projects

CIEEM and the University of Exeter will be carrying out a desk study on the case studies submitted, which relies on monitoring data from ecologists. Their study will be completed in autumn 2017.
In addition, BCT will be conducting fieldwork in summer 2017 and summer 2018. Our study will be completed in autumn 2018.

BCT are seeking bat roost mitigation cases:
·         involving damage or destruction of roosts of common and soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared bat and Myotis species
·         from England and Wales
·         with licences expiring between 2006 and 2014
·         where access can be gained for monitoring as early as May this year.
CIEEM and the University of Exeter are seeking cases for the same species and time period but will be covering the whole of the UK.

CIEEM and BCT are appealing for ecologists to provide the details of any bat roost mitigation case studies which fit our broad criteria (see flow chart below).

Case studies can easily be shared by either i) uploading reports or ii) filling in our questionnaire.

If you feel the roost owner would be happy to have BCT visit the site to carry out monitoring work, with no obligation or costs involved, then please send them the letter in the questionnaire and ascertain if access would be possible.

BCT and CIEEM are also working closely with Natural England and Natural Resources Wales to access licence applications and returns and to contact roost owners (on behalf of BCT only). This process has been delayed due to data protection, storage and retrieval constraints. NE and NRW have now sent out letters to some licence applicants requesting access on behalf of BCT but we suspect that most will refer us back to their consultants for the relevant reports. Working with consultants means our approach can be more targeted because you are more familiar with the sites and their respective owners than anybody else. Once your initial contact has been made and the roost owner is happy for BCT to visit the site, then BCT can take the next steps on arranging access etc. 

To find out more details and to start uploading case studies please visit THIS PAGE.

CIEEM and BCT are extremely grateful for any time given in aiding this research.

If you have any questions relating to the projects, please contact:

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