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Home arrow Environment arrow Bats in the Anthropocene: Conservation of Bats in a Changing World

Synthesis and Outlook

Synanthropic bats are, by definition, in close contact with humans. Although this contact bears some risks to both humans and bats, it also provides opportunities to promote bat conservation. Practical aspects regarding the conservation of synanthropic bats in buildings, such as how to construct a new roost or enhancement of an existing building roost, should be one part of conservation efforts. From our point of view, it is equally important to engage in outreach programs and communicate with building owners about the conservation value of synanthropic bats (see also Kingston et al. 2016). With respect to research directions, we identify the following questions that need to be addressed:

1. What sensory cues do bats use to explore buildings as potential night or day roosts?

2. What are the differences in microclimate between natural and building roost sites, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions?

3. Is use of building roosts a learned behavior? Do local populations establish a tradition of inhabiting buildings?

4. Is swarming behavior unique to European bats?

5. Are there differences in the way bats use buildings between areas or continents where buildings have been in place for many centuries compared with areas where humans have only built houses recently.

6. Do tropical and subtropical bats also use buildings for extended periods of torpor, similar to hibernation of temperate zone bats?

7. What is the selective benefit for synanthropic bats inhabiting roosts in buildings compared with conspecifics inhabiting natural roosts? Why do some species commonly hibernate in buildings and others do not (see also Rintoul and Brigham 2014)?

8. Do tropical and subtropical bats exhibit similar expansions of geographic ranges when thermal benefits of using buildings as roosts are not the predominant driving benefit?

9. Is it possible to estimate the monetary value of ecosystem services provided by synanthropic bats?

10. To what extent have the geographic ranges of synanthropic bats changed in response to the coinhabitation of buildings?

Apart from these basic research questions, we need to engage in larger conservation efforts to protect synanthropic bats in developing countries, taking into account their ecological and economic value. Synanthropic bats face an uncertain future in many temperate countries due to political measures and specific programs to improve building standards, e.g., building modernization in the European Union that involves increased insulation of exterior walls has led to the large-scale eviction of synanthropic bats from buildings. We also see a strong incentive to coordinate conservation efforts to protect populations of synanthropic bats. Bats that live in the same buildings as humans could be ambassadors for the conservation of bats if other successful outcomes are replicated and publicized to a general audience. We conclude that synanthropic bats coinhabiting buildings with humans may provide good opportunities to teach humans in both urban and rural environments about wildlife species, particularly bats.

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