Alexia Wellbellove, London Bat Group
London Bat Group (LBG) is an entirely voluntary, registered charity working throughout the Greater London area to protect and enhance London’s bats. What that means in practice is that LBG is run by a small group of devoted volunteers, all of which have busy professional lives, but we choose to dedicate a large part of our private lives towards raising awareness of bats, and particularly of course bats in London. LBG has been a partner of GiGL since it was first developed in its original form of London Wildlife Trust’s Biological Recording Project, due in large part to one of LBG’s most devoted volunteers, Pete Guest, who also worked for London Wildlife Trust.
Ever since the GiGL project began, LBG has recognised the benefits of a central store of biological records. Whilst LBG has its own records officer, and we maintain a comprehensive set of records, this does not amount to anything unless the records are put to effective use.
LBG strongly believes that by sharing this data with others we can improve the way in which planning and other decisions are made to ensure that bats, and other species, are fundamental considerations in any decision made in the environment in which they live. By sharing our data with GiGL, we therefore not only ensure that this happens, but also allow a professional organisation to take the load off our plates. There is simply no way in which LBG could cope with a large volume of requests from numerous developers and local councils in a comprehensive manner. GiGL therefore puts our mind at ease by providing this information to all those who request it.
And of course this relationship is not a one way one – by being able to access LBG’s long developed data set, GiGL’s can claim with confidence to developers and any other service users that they are able to provide a service which is reflective of a wide range of biodiversity and taxa. This is indeed a strength, and one that is necessary in order to gain trust and confidence in the data provided.
Increasingly, as with other wildlife, bats in London are facing numerous threats from a number of different areas. One specific factor is increased levels of lighting. Bats are nocturnal and are therefore particularly vulnerable to the increasing trend towards floodlighting – of historic buildings, churches, bridges and for security reasons. This is particularly the case in London, where a trend towards security lighting along river towpaths and the lighting of recreational grounds is increasingly causing LBG concern as it impacts many bat populations in the capital. With many bat populations under threat, this is a real concern.
It is incredibly important to us to ensure that as volunteers, we use our time wisely to ensure that a history of records in important bat sites (as well as the not so important ones!) is maintained, and that the data is in turn recorded and reflected in LBG and GiGL’s database. In turn, on some sites, LBG can turn to GiGL to highlight the importance of sites to a wide range of species beyond bats to help support the maintenance of a wide range of open spaces in London. Of course, the work does not stop here – it is important that we all continue to identify the gaps in data, and we are hoping that GiGL will help us out here, as we look to ensure that bat records in London are up to date and as comprehensive as possible so that we can accurately estimate the population of bats in London.