When you initially think of a species under threat, often your first thought would be to blame predation, poaching or habitat destruction. You don’t often think of inanimate objects as being a threat to wildlife. So then, why are bats often found dead or injured near buildings with smooth surfaces – a recent study published in the journal ‘Science’ has found the answer.
Bats use echolocation to navigate around their environment and forage for food. They emit a call and listen to the resulting echo from nearby objects, thus allowing them to locate and/or avoid objects in their flight path. In modern architecture a lot of smooth, vertical surfaces such as mirrors and windows are affecting bats’ abilities to avoid collisions. The study found that of the 21 bats investigated, 19 collided into a vertical metal plate while none collided with horizontal objects. It appears that vertical surfaces, in the way they reflect an ‘echo’ trick the bats into thinking their route is clear, consequently increasing the collision rate.
This study has sparked great concern amongst bat ecologists. Of the 18 species found in the UK, all of them and their roosts are legally protected by domestic and international legislation. From this study it is apparent that wildlife populations must be taken into more consideration when designing cities. It is vital that we encourage sustainable and nature friendly ways of living to help protect endangered species more as cities develop and expand.