With high mountains, long coastlines, and deep oceans, Greece is rich in biodiversity – and bats. The country has one of the highest levels of bat diversity in Europe. In fact, of the 43 bat species in Europe, 34 species occur in Greece.
Unfortunately, without an environmental entity to focus on bat research, information on these bat communities remains scarce. Most existing Greek studies of bats focus on species presence with no quantitative data.
Meanwhile, the public remains largely unaware of the presence of these protected bat species, and the economic crisis leaves limited capacity for citizens and organizations to contribute to the protection of ecosystems and organisms.
In effort to perform research, get citizens involved, and collect crucial information for better bat conservation efforts and landscape urban planning, the Lalitsa Civil Nonprofit Association applied for Wildlife Acoustics’ Scientific Product Grant Program.
Specifically, the organization wanted to investigate the effect of urbanization and light pollution, which has rarely been the focus of bat studies in Greece.
The organization hoped to explore the bat diversity in Greek cities and towns to create a reference dataset of bat recordings in different urban environment and light conditions, with the goal of using data for future comparisons and recommendations for landscape and urban planning.
To date, this is the first known citizen science project concerning bats in Greece.
As a citizen science project, Lalitsa used a network of volunteers throughout Greece. Citizens deployed the Echo Meter Touch 2 using a protocol that prepared them on how to record bats.
Walking at least three transects of 500 meters each, per area per night, they recorded bats and took note of temperature, cloud cover, humidity, artificial light, type of light, and distance from light. The recordings spanned from 30 minutes after the sunset until two hours after the sunset.
From June to October (the time that bats are most active in temperate climates), car transects (using the Echo Meter Touch Car Bracket) were also performed with vehicles moving at a constant speed, for five-minute intervals.
To record overnight – and identify species possibly missed just after dusk – Song Meter SM4BAT FS recorders were also used overnight at two sites: one in the city and the other at the outskirts of the city at least three days during the sampling period.
The recordings were collected from volunteers and analyzed using Kaleidoscope Pro analysis software. Automatic call identification was performed within the software, and the results were crosschecked using the Greek Bats Acoustic Library available at the Natural History Museum of Crete.
The overall bat activity was calculated as seconds of activity and as bat passes per time of recording, for all species together, per species or group of species (in cases of species difficult to discriminate).
Statistical analyses will be done to compare activity and species richness between the different habitats and times of the year. The effects of urbanization will be investigated by comparing different levels of urbanization and light conditions to bat activity.
In addition to publishing the study on the Lalitsa website, the organization had planned to share the results at the Berlin Bat Meeting in 2020, however, the event was canceled due to the Covid crisis. The group instead plans to hold a special event to share their results, along with photos, sounds and other informational material in the coming months.