American Bat Monitoring Program: Alberta 2017 Final Report
Executive Summary for the Final Report
Bats across North America are facing unprecedented decline from existing and emerging threats, including habitat loss, climate change, wind energy developments and the fungal disease white-nose syndrome (WNS). In 2014 the province initiated a pilot project to expand the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) into Alberta as a means of monitoring bat populations to better understand provincial bat distributions and abundances. In 2017 15 acoustic surveys were conducted at 12 sites in Alberta: 12 passive and three mobile surveys. An automated bat call identification model, developed in 2015, was used to objectively and efficiently classify the thousands of bat call sequences recorded to species. Equipment malfunctions occurred at five sites in 2017; no detections were recovered from UAR 96710 (Edson1), UAR 95946 (Edson2), LAR 135722 (Fort Chipewyan), LAR 119699 (Oil Sands) or PR 112796 (Wabasca). For the seven sites with detections, 4947 bat call sequences were recorded during the passive surveys in 2017 and 51 bat call sequences were recorded during the mobile surveys. On average, 707 bat call sequences were recorded at each site (± 229 SE; range 169-1219) and bats were recorded for an average of 7.1 nights (±1.2 SE; range 5-11) per site. One-quarter of call sequences were not classified to bat species/species group. Of those call sequences classified to bat species/species group, nearly half were classified as Myotis lucifugus (44%), over twice as many calls as the next closest grouping (species group Eptesicus fuscus-Lasionycteris noctivagans at 17%). The majority of the M. lucifugus detections occurred in the South Saskatchewan Region (SSR Camps and OneFour sites), Jasper National Park, and Wood Buffalo National Park. Lasiurus cinereus comprised 13% of all bat calls, predominantly detected in the South Saskatchewan Region and Jasper National Park. These findings have serious implications for the conservation and maintenance of Alberta’s bat populations with the increasing and emerging threats of wind energy development and WNS. Acoustic surveys for NABat’s requisite five years at all sites are recommended, as is the addition of new sites throughout the province. If survey resources are limited, sites should be preferentially selected in the Canadian Rockies and surrounding areas, as well as areas being considered for wind energy development. Continued searching for winter hibernaculum and maternity colonies of species susceptible to WNS should also be a priority.