On March 9th, U.S. Forest Service scientist Susan Loeb and numerous partners were recognized with the Forest Service Wings Across the Americas Research Award for their contributions to the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat).
Wings Across the Americas is an international Forest Service program that works with a wide range of partners in the U.S. and overseas to conserve habitats and populations of birds, bats, butterflies and dragonflies. The award recognizes outstanding conservation work by Forest Service and partner agencies.
Loeb, research ecologist with the Forest Service Southern Research Station upland hardwoods research unit, led the effort to develop NABat. With assistance from core team members from the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Defense, Canadian Wildlife Service, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, and Bat Conservation International, Loeb organized four workshops to develop monitoring protocols, edited and wrote chapters for a Forest Service General Technical Report to be published this spring, and presented at national and international meetings.
“North American bats are facing unprecedented stressors, including white-nose syndrome disease, habitat loss and fragmentation, wind energy development, and effects of changing climate,” said Loeb. “We need an effective and efficient monitoring program to document the impact of stressors on bat populations, identify priority species for conservation, and measure the effectiveness of actions to mitigate stressors. Monitoring data are also critical for determining the risk of bat species for extinction and for providing early warning about species that may be declining from unknown causes.”
NABat grew out of a national working group chaired by Loeb and originally charged with developing monitoring plans and protocols to gauge the impacts of white-nose syndrome on bat species. Working group members quickly recognized that monitoring is also needed in relation to other stressors such as wind energy development and climate change, and that effective monitoring needs to be geographically extensive and international in nature.
The result of their efforts, NABat, is a multi-agency, multi-national effort designed to address the lack of large-scale long-term monitoring data for North American bat species by developing a comprehensive bat monitoring program to track changes in the distribution and abundance of all 47 North American bat species that are shared among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Several states and provinces have already started using the NABat design and protocols to begin monitoring bats. During 2014, NABat pilot programs started in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Missouri, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina in the U.S., and in Alberta, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island in Canada. This year programs will begin in new states and expand in some of the states with pilot programs.
In the first years, NABat will produce annual status reports on North American bat distributions. “After several years of data are collected, NABat will be able to generate estimates of change in bat distributions and relative abundances,” said Loeb. “Eventually NABat will develop multi-annual State of North America’s Bats reports that can address the important questions about how different stressors – white-nose syndrome, wind energy development, and climate change, for example – are affecting North American bats.”
Other partners in NABat also recognized by the award include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Bat Conservation Trust, University of California, University of Alberta, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
For more information, email Susan Loeb at email@example.com.