Effect of roost management on populations trends of Rhinolophus hipposideros and Rhinolophus ferrumequinum in Britain and Ireland

  • Published source details Wright P.G.R., Kitching T., Hanniffy R., Bollo Palacios M., McAney K. & Schofield H. (2022) Effect of roost management on populations trends of Rhinolophus hipposideros and Rhinolophus ferrumequinum in Britain and Ireland. Conservation Evidence, 19, 21-26.


After a significant population decline during the 20th century, populations of both greater and lesser horseshoe bats have increased over recent decades in Britain and populations of lesser horseshoe bats have increased in Ireland. Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT) acquired 37 bat reserves since the 1980s with the aim to safeguard the sites and enhance the roosting and hibernation conditions in buildings that were often derelict and sub-optimal for bats. These measures have resulted in a strong population size increase of all colonies. However, populations have also been increasing throughout Britain and Ireland as a consequence of legal protection and milder winters resulting in higher survival rates. Therefore, it is not clear whether the measures that have taken place in VWT reserves have led to a greater increase than roosts that have not benefited from the same type of management. We aimed to compare population trends of horseshoe bat roosts under VWT management and non-VWT management from 1999 to 2020 in order to assess its effectiveness. For this, we analysed population trends at sites under different management types (VWT and non-VWT) for lesser horseshoe bats in Britain and Ireland and greater horseshoe bats in Britain. Our results indicated that populations in Britain under VWT management have increased by 366% (CI 225% - 580%) for greater horseshoe bats and 188% (CI 125% - 283%) for lesser horseshoe bats. Roosts that did not benefit from the same levels of management increased respectively by 164% (CI 132% - 199%) and 51% (CI 40% - 60%). In Ireland, populations of lesser horseshoe bats in VWT managed roosts increased by 217% (CI 118% - 364%) while non-VWT managed roosts remained stable (-0.44%; CI -23% - 29%). We conclude that management actions carried out by VWT of greater and lesser horseshoe bat roosts have helped populations recover at a faster rate by securing the integrity of buildings, improving access points and by providing optimal microclimatic conditions within the buildings.

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