Can DNA analysis help save time and costs associated with bat licences?

Posted by James Tristram BSc (Hons) on 30/11/2011

Ecosulis is working in collaboration with the University of Warwick to provide timely and reliable species identification of bat droppings using DNA analysis. Prior to using DNA analysis, ecologists relied upon dropping size, colour, shape and structure to determine the species. This method is not 100% reliable, as multiple bats species may use the same resting place and environmental influences (such as humidity and rain) may distort or destroy samples. DNA analysis overcomes these issues and can provide reliable identification of species from mixed and damaged samples.

DNA analysis of bat droppings can be particularly useful for bat habitat suitability assessments of buildings carried out during the winter, allowing accurate identification of species using a roost in the absence of emergence or dawn surveys.  If bat droppings are found within a roost which provides unsuitable conditions as a hibernation or maternity roost then, in theory, it would possible for a European Protected Species Licence to be issued by statutory bodies (such as Natural England and the Welsh Assembly) without the need for further emergence and dawn surveys, which generally need to be carried out within the optimum survey period of May-August.

The benefits of being able to obtain a licence from an initial bat habitat suitability assessment to commencement of works without having to wait until further surveys can be completed could be large for a number of projects.  There could also be significant cost savings.  

At the time of writing we are unaware of any licence to be issued in this way, but if you have a site that you are keen to try and obtain a bat licence for prior to May 2012 based on a bat habitat suitability assessment and survey only then we would be happy to discuss this approach with you further.