The disturbance, damage, and destruction of roosts are key drivers of bat population declines worldwide. In countries where bats are protected by law, bat roost surveys are often required to inform ecological impact assessments. Yet, evidence-based information on survey methodology to detect bat roosts is crucially lacking, and failing to detect a roost can lead to serious errors during decision-making processes. Here, we assess the efficacy of bat roost surveys in buildings as implemented in the United Kingdom. These consist of a daytime inspection of buildings, followed by a series of acoustic surveys at dusk/dawn if during the daytime inspection evidence of bats is found, or if the absence of bats cannot be verified. We reviewed 155 ecological consultants’ reports to (i) compare survey outcome between daytime inspection and acoustic surveys; and (ii) determine the minimum sampling effort required during acoustic surveys to be confident that no bats are roosting within a building. We focused on two genera of bats most frequently found in buildings in Europe – Pipistrellus (crevice roosting species with high intensity echolocation calls that can be easily detected by ultrasound detectors) and Plecotus (species that roost in open spaces and which emit faint echolocation calls that are difficult to detect). Daytime inspections were efficient in detecting open-roosting species such as Plecotus species but were likely to miss the presence of crevice-dwelling ones (here Pipistrellus species) which may lead to erroneous conclusions if no acoustic surveys are subsequently prescribed to confirm their absence. A minimum of three and four acoustic surveys are required to be 95% confident that a building does not host a roost of Pipistrellus species and Plecotus species, respectively, thus exceeding current recommendations. Overall, we demonstrated that reports submitted as part of an ecological impact assessment provide suitable data to test and improve survey methods.
- Detection probability
- Environmental impact assessment
- Sampling effort
- Synanthropic species