Indicator species and trends

Bats are often referred to as ‘indicator species’ this signifies that a species is considered indicative of some underlying environmental characteristic. As Kate discussed last week, not only do Bats provide us with essential services (such as pest control and pollination), they also indicate how the nocturnal ecosystems they inhabit are faring. A healthy ecosystem should be able to support bats and changes in bat abundance and distribution may indicate underlying changes to that ecosystem (thus ‘indicator’). Bats are also known to be particular sensitive to such changes and thus may make a more effective indicator than other species.

Figure 1 – Estimates for the abundance of pipistrelle species 1978 – 1992. Source Bat Conservation Trust, via JNCC (

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee has adopted six widespread bat species as an indicator of mammals in the wider countryside (see ‘Indicators in your pocket’: Since 1978, records indicate that populations have declined dramatically, but more recent conservation efforts and monitoring programs have helped to produce more positive recent trends. However, in the context of the longer term declines, much more needs to be done to help bat species maintain these gains, and hopefully increase further.

How does this relate to the Bat Detective project? Well, much of these data are from well-established UK monitoring programs, and we have a less clear picture of how bats are faring across Europe and worldwide. The identification of bat calls that you’re providing through will allow us to then identify the species that make these calls and then develop a much clearer picture of the distribution and abundance of these species throughout Europe (and eventually the world!).

Figure 2 – Trends in widespread bat populations, 1999 to 2011. Source Bat Conservation Trust, via JNCC (


So keep up the amazing work! Your wonderful efforts will help us to identify species that are at risk and areas that need better conservation and management!

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  1. How many bats are there? « Bat Detective - October 26, 2012

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