28 June 2012
Research carried out at the University of Bristol predicted that suitable areas for one of the rarest UK mammal species, the grey long-eared bat, are found in Pembrokeshire, southwest Wales (black areas in Figure below show predicted suitable habitat (Razgour et al. 2011, Biological Conservation 144: 2922-2930)).
Although it was uncertain whether the species will be able to colonise these isolated areas from its current know distribution along the south - southwest coast of England, bat ecologists, conservationists and volunteers around south Wales rose to the challenge and began searching for evidence of this cryptic bat species. As highlighted on the BBC News web site, DNA analysis of droppings collected from a roost in Pembrokeshire has recently confirmed that grey long-eared bats are present in southwest Wales. In collaboration with Welsh bat ecologists and the Bat Conservation Trust, droppings from maternity roosts around the area are being collected for DNA analysis in search of evidence for breeding colonies. This finding has implications not only for our knowledge of the distribution and population size and structure of this species in the UK, but also for conservation planning and mitigation for development projects in the area. Moreover, it confirms that species distribution modelling is indeed an important conservation tool that can be used to determine the environmental requirements of species and guide survey work.
Orly Razgour releasing a grey long-eared bat