Bat experts converge in Dublin to talk about windfarms

15 May 2012

A Townsend's big-eared bat. Its average lifespan is 16 years, but bats may live up to 30 years. Such bats are not intrinsic to Ireland. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Bat experts from all over Europe, the Middle East and North Africa are at the Eurobats conference in Dublin Castle this week. They are here to discuss how to best protect bats in Europe with the onslaught of clean-tech developments as a result of windfarms, as well as road infrastructure and forestry advances.

The bat experts are gathering under the auspices of Eurobats, an international agreement that focuses on the protection of bats in Europe.

Other topics up for discussion at the conference are the latest developments in bat diseases and bat-tracking technology.

While Ireland just has nine bat species, according to Bat Conservation Ireland, apparently 52 species of bats have been identified in Europe.

And because some European bat species migrate across the Mediterranean to warmer climes, North African countries have recently been included in the Eurobats agreement.


Ireland’s windfarms and bats

Paul Scott from the Irish environmental consultancy Scott Cawley said today that it is only now that Ireland is starting to monitor whether windfarms in the country are having an impact on our existing bat population.

“While windfarms have been proven to impact bats in the US and in mainland Europe, we don’t have any scientific data here in Ireland to conclude whether wind turbines are impacting our nine species of bat,” he said.

Scott, who is also on the board of Bat Conservation Ireland, said the organisation is finalising its guidelines for bat surveys for windfarm applications.

“It’s only in the past few years that proposed windfarm developments need to carry out a bat impact assessment here in Ireland,” added Scott.

Bats themselves are the only mammals that can fly. They have many ecological roles, such as controlling the levels of flies, mosquitoes and midgets in ecosystems. They also operate by dispersing fruit seed and pollinating flowers.

Bats as bio-indicators

Scott said they are also good bio-indicators of an ecosystem.

“If you find that there aren’t any bats in a certain ecosystem, you know that something has happened there,” he said.

The year 2012 is the International Year of the Bat and European Bat Night will take place on 25-26 August 2012.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic