North American Bat Monitoring Program: Alberta 2015 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 2015, 12 acoustic surveys were conducted at 10 sites in Alberta: 10 passive and two mobile surveys. An automated bat call identification model was developed to objectively and efficiently classify the thousands of bat call sequences recorded to species and species group. A total of 13,855 bat call sequences were recorded during the 10 passive surveys in 2015 and 70 bat call sequences were recorded during the mobile surveys. On average, 1386 bat call sequences were recorded at each site (± 407 SE; range 22-4357) and sites were surveyed for an average of nine nights (±1.6 SE; range 6-20). Over one-quarter of call sequences were not classified to bat species/species group. Of those call sequences classified to bat species/species group the majority were classified as Myotis lucifigus and Eptesicus fuscus – Lasionycteris noctivagans (34% for each). Over two-thirds of the bat call sequences recorded in Jasper National Park were M. lucifugus and in southern Alberta migratory bat species vulnerable to wind energy development were recorded. Human validation of the bat call sequences and improvements to the provincial model are expected to increase the number of bat call sequences assigned to species/species groups. Even with the results at hand, 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. Locating winter hibernaculum and maternity colonies of species susceptible to WNS should also be a priority.