North American Bat Monitoring Program: Alberta 2016 Final Report
Updated: Aug 4
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 2016 14 acoustic surveys were conducted at 10 sites in Alberta: 10 passive and four 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. A total of 16,239 bat call sequences were recorded during the 10 passive surveys in 2016 and 75 bat call sequences were recorded during the mobile surveys. On average, 1624 bat call sequences were recorded at each site (± 477 SE; range 348-5345) and sites were surveyed for an average of eight nights (±1.0 SE; range 1-25). Nearly 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 Lasiurus cinereus and Myotis lucifigus (34% and 33%, respectively). Over three-quarters of bat call sequences recorded in the Lost River survey (South Saskatchewan River Region) were L. cinereus while over half of the bat call sequences recorded in each of the Upper Athabasca Region surveys were M. lucifugus. 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.