Do Bat Gantries and Underpasses Help Bats Cross Roads Safely?

Berthinussen, Anna; Altringham, John
June 2012
PLoS ONE;Jun2012, Vol. 7 Issue 6, p1
Academic Journal
Major roads can reduce bat abundance and diversity over considerable distances. To mitigate against these effects and comply with environmental law, many European countries install bridges, gantries or underpasses to make roads permeable and safer to cross. However, through lack of appropriate monitoring, there is little evidence to support their effectiveness. Three underpasses and four bat gantries were investigated in northern England. Echolocation call recordings and observations were used to determine the number of bats using underpasses in preference to crossing the road above, and the height at which bats crossed. At gantries, proximity to the gantry and height of crossing bats were measured. Data were compared to those from adjacent, severed commuting routes that had no crossing structure. At one underpass 96% of bats flew through it in preference to crossing the road. This underpass was located on a pre-construction commuting route that allowed bats to pass without changing flight height or direction. At two underpasses attempts to divert bats from their original commuting routes were unsuccessful and bats crossed the road at the height of passing vehicles. Underpasses have the potential to allow bats to cross roads safely if built on pre-construction commuting routes. Bat gantries were ineffective and used by a very small proportion of bats, even up to nine years after construction. Most bats near gantries crossed roads along severed, pre-construction commuting routes at heights that put them in the path of vehicles. Crossing height was strongly correlated with verge height, suggesting that elevated verges may have some value in mitigation, but increased flight height may be at the cost of reduced permeability. Green bridges should be explored as an alternative form of mitigation. Robust monitoring is essential to assess objectively the case for mitigation and to ensure effective mitigation.


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