North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat)

Science Center Objects

North American bats face unprecedented threats including habitat loss and fragmentation, white-nose syndrome, wind energy development, and climate change. However, it is difficult evaluating the impacts of these threats because there is a lack of basic information about the distribution and abundance of bats across the continent. Although bat monitoring has been done in individual areas and for individual projects, until now, there has been no statistically robust and standardized monitoring program across North America to assess the status and trends of bat populations. With development of the NABat program, managers can use the information garnered from this continental-scale, long-term program to better document the impact of these threats, estimate extinction risk, set conservation priorities and evaluate the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Image: Side View of Insect-Eating Spotted Bat (Euderma maculatum) in New Mexico
This spotted bat, native to western North America, is a hibernating insect-eating bat that may be at risk as the disease white-nose syndrome moves westward.Public domain

What is NABat?

  • The North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) is an international interagency program designed to monitor bat distributions and abundances on public and private lands, and provide trend data at the state, provincial, tribal, regional (e.g., Landscape Conservation Cooperatives), and range-wide scales.
  • The goal of NABat is to provide natural resource managers with information they need to manage bat populations effectively, detect early warning signs of population declines, and estimate extinction risk.
  • NABat will allow state, provincial and federal agencies to better prioritize limited resources and engage in cross-agency collaboration. Over time, NABat will involve the public in monitoring and conservation activities.

Scope of NABat

Initially NABat will concentrate on the 47 species of bats found in Canada and the U.S. Over time NABat will integrate with an existing monitoring program in Mexico. 

Methods and Approaches Used in NABat

A central component of NABat is the use of a master sample of grid cells, a spatially balanced list of sampling areas within a continental grid framework. Conducting standardized monitoring within this framework will allow statistical inference to unsurveyed locations. The master sample provides operational flexibility to partners while allowing for regional and rangewide analyses.

NABat will gather monitoring data to assess changes in bat populations using:

  • Winter hibernaculum (location of hibernation) counts
  • Maternity colony counts
  • Mobile acoustic surveys along driving transects
  • Acoustic surveys at stationary points
Image: Hibernating Bats with White-nose Syndrome
Bats showing signs of infections with Geomyces destructans, the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome.Public domain

Anticipated Products and Outcomes

  • The State of North America’s Bats: Annual and multi-annual reports of status and trends in bat distributions and relative abundances.
  • Spatially-explicit data on bat populations (e.g., improved range maps, density estimates) that will allow natural resource managers to identify areas and species of conservation concern.
  • Long-term distribution data for addressing cross-boundary issues related to bat management and conservation.

Accomplishments to Date

  • Eleven species distribution maps produced in 2015 for Oregon and Washington
  • Four workshops and a technical report: A Plan for the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat). The report describes rationale, need, sampling design, sampling framework, guidelines for data collection, data management capabilities, and analytical approaches.
  • Active engagement by U.S. and Canadian interim coordinators, with pilot studies conducted throughout USA and Canada.
  • Bat Population Database: a data management system to house and manage NABat data.
  • Piloting NABat Master Sample: a spatially balanced ordered list of sample units for each U.S. state and Canadian province.
  • Modification and beta testing of NABat Database, initially developed by National Park Service but expanded as a data entry portal for all methods and approaches of the NABat program.
  • Analyzed and published on a subset of pilot data (https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70174323).
  • Distributed a NABat survey through BCI to better understand level of ongoing monitoring and field challenges implementing NABat protocols.

Looking Ahead to 2017

  • Produce initial summary of data collection efforts as well as an evaluation of spatial balance across the landscape in order to focus new monitoring in under‐represented areas.
  • Develop and release a website to support and disseminate information (NABatmonitoring.org).
  • Develop site selection and visualization tool based on the NABat sampling design, in partnership with MonitoringResources.org.
  • Develop spatially‐enabled database to house NABat data and metadata.
  • Develop file store for raw acoustic data files as well as other media (video, images).
  • Conduct NABat and stakeholder workshop to develop a detailed and solid strategy document for effective and sustained program implementation.

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