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European bats soar past biodiversity targets
26/ 10/ 2010

European bats soar past biodiversity targetsBonn (Germany), 26 October 2010 - New research backed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reveals European bats to be a major conservation success.

With a majority of bat species in Europe stabilising or increasing in number, European bats are well on the way to achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 7 on Environmental Sustainability, which aims for a significant reduction in the rate of species loss by 2010.

This bucks the trend in global conservation targets, which are currently being discussed in Nagoya. World governments agreed eight years ago at a UN summit in Johannesburg to reduce the rate of species loss by 2010 but in the majority of cases, the pledge has not been met. This is mainly due to a lack of conservation action in the field, which is essential in protecting vulnerable species.

Among the 26 bat species in western and central Europe, increasing or stable population trends have been reported for at least 14 species, while only two species have shown a decline. (Reliable data is not yet available for the remaining species).

This success is largely thanks to legislation and treaties that promote specific conservation measures. These include the UNEP-administered Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS), the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Council of Europe) and the European Union's Flora Fauna Habitat Directive.

EUROBATS, which will mark its 20th anniversary in 2011, provides concrete guidance and assistance to governments and non-governmental organizations on issues where bat conservation action is needed.

Dr. Christine Harbusch, author of the EUROBATS study, noted that despite this good news for bats, the conservation status of many bat species is still largely unfavourable.

"Some populations are still at risk or remain conservation-dependent, being too small and fragmented, due to past losses. This leaves their long-term viability in question and also causes problems of genetic exchange," she said.

With only two species in Europe exhibiting a clear decline, bats seem to have benefited the most among all European wild mammals from international treaties, conventions and agreements on conservation.

Andreas Streit, Executive Secretary of EUROBATS, welcomed the promising findings of the study and remarked that successful species conservation does not always require significant funding.

"It is rewarding to see that our concerted international actions on species conservation are clearly producing results", he said. "But a lot still needs to be done, especially in other regions. Population trends elsewhere are most alarming, particularly where bats are excessively hunted for bush meat or deliberately killed out of prejudice. Other threats relate to habitat loss, such as deforestation. What all threats to bats have in common is that they are man-made."

Although biodiversity is moving onto the global stage, the calculation of its monetary benefits is still a relatively new field.

Bats contribute to economies by performing essential environmental functions. They control insect populations in agricultural regions, maintain forests and disperse pollen and seed over long distances.

On organic coffee plantations in Mexico, for example, bats consume more insects than birds do in the summer wet season. Over 200 insect species feed on and damage coffee plants. With pesticides banned on organic plantations, the role of bats is thus essential to the local economy.

In addition to bees, bats are the major contributor to natural pollination, an eco-service which significantly aids farming efforts, particularly in developing countries, and is estimated to be worth US$224 billion a year.

To celebrate the environmental impact of bats and encourage more international cooperation on bat conservation, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and EUROBATS have designated 2011-2012 the Year of the Bat. The Year of the Bat aims to raise awareness of these often misunderstood animals and their diverse biodiversity benefits.

Notes to Editors

The Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS), a binding international treaty which came into force in 1994, presently numbers 32 European states among its Parties and counts 62 range states plus the European Union within its territory. The Agreement was concluded under the auspices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), which recognises that endangered migratory species can be properly protected only if activities are carried out over the entire migratory range of the species. Administered by UNEP, EUROBATS aims to protect all 53 species of bats identified in Europe, through legislation, education, conservation measures and international co-operation with Agreement members and with countries which have not yet joined.

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), also known as the Bonn Convention, works for the conservation of a wide array of endangered migratory animals worldwide through the negotiation and implementation of agreements and species action plans. At present, 114 countries are parties to the convention.

For more information, please contact:

Andreas Streit, Executive Secretary, UNEP/EUROBATS, Tel. +49 228 815 2420 or e-mail
Bryan Coll, UNEP/Nairobi, Tel. +254 20 762 3088 or e-mail

Further Resources
Year of the Bat
Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)