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Av Magne Flåten. onsdag 15. august 2012
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Holy Bat Detector! Ecologists Develop First Europe-Wide Bat ID Tool

ScienceDaily (Aug. 3, 2012) — Just as differences in song can be used to
distinguish one bird species from another, the pips and squeaks bats use to
find prey can be used to identify different species of bat. Now, for the
first time, ecologists have developed a Europe-wide tool capable of
identifying bats from their echolocation calls. The new free online tool –
iBatsID – will be a major boost to conserving bats, whose numbers have
declined significantly across Europe over the past 50 years. Details are
published August 7 in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied
Working with an international team of ecologists, lead author and PhD
student Charlotte Walters from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL)
selected 1,350 calls of 34 different European bat species from EchoBank, a
global echolocation library of more than 200,000 bat calls. The calls were
then analysed to find out which characteristics were most useful in
distinguishing different bat species. According to
Walters: "Lots of different measurements can be taken from an echolocation
call, such as its maximum and minimum frequency, how quickly the frequency
changes during the call, and how long the call lasts, but we didn't know
which of these measurements are most useful for telling different species'
calls apart."
The 12 most useful call parameters were then used to train artificial neural
networks to produce the new identification tool, iBatsID, which can identify
34 different bat species across the whole of Europe. Most species can be
identified correctly more than 80% of the time, although accuracy varies
because some species are much harder to identify than others. "iBatsID can
identify 83-98% of calls from pipistrelle species correctly, but some
species such as those in the Myotis genus are really hard to tell apart and
even with iBatsID we can still only identify 49-81% of Myotis calls
correctly," she explains. iBatsID should have a major impact on European bat
conservation, which until now has been hampered by the absence of a
standardised, objective and continent-scale identification tool.
According to Professor Kate Jones, another of the paper's authors and chair
of the Bat Conservation Trust: "Acoustic methods are really useful for
surveying and monitoring bats, but without using the same identification
methods everywhere, we can't form reliable conclusions about how bat
populations are doing and whether their distributions are changing. Because
many bats migrate between different European countries, we need to monitor
bats at a European, as well as at country, scale. In iBatsID, we now have a
free, online tool that works anywhere in Europe." Bat populations have
declined significantly across Europe since the middle of the 20th century.
As a result, all bats are now protected through the EU Habitats Directive.
Bats face many pressures, including loss of roosting sites in trees and
buildings; loss of feeding habitats in woodlands, meadows, parks and
gardens; falling insect numbers; and habitat fragmentation resulting in the
loss of green corridors such as hedges that provide connectivity in the
As well as providing vital ecosystem services, such as pollinating plants
and controlling insect pests, bats are important indicators of biodiversity.
"Bats are very sensitive to changes in their environment, so if bat
populations are declining, we know that something bad is going on in their
environment. Monitoring bats can therefore give us a good idea of what is
going on with biodiversity in general,"


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