We are lucky enough to have 18 species of bat in the UK, 17 of which are known to be breeding here - that's almost a quarter of all our mammal species.
Most of these bat species have evolved to use trees as roosts, while many also forage in woodland. Trees also provide excellent commuting habitats enabling bats to travel from their roosts to their insect hunting grounds or to disperse to new areas.
Bats use woodland for different reasons, depending on bat species, the season and the type and size of woodland. Coniferous, deciduous and mixed woodlands can all be home to bats if there are suitable places to roost or feed.
In the UK there are six species which are woodland specialists - they have a strong preference for roosting in trees and foraging in woodland. Bechstein's bat, for example, will both roost and forage in a suitable woodland and will only rarely venture further afield.
Bats fly high
Trees provide shelter and attract a diverse range of insect species for bats to feed on. Since bats are not able to bore holes or make nests, they use whatever gaps are available – including hollows made by other animals, the natural decay of the wood or arboricultural methods.
Bats, such as the brown long-eared bat, use different parts of the tree for different reasons, depending on the time of year and temperature. For example, in the summer bats might use the higher canopy sites to have their young in warmer temperatures. In winter, they might move deeper and lower into the tree to hibernate.
Bats and their roosts are protected by the Habitats Directive because of the severe declines they have experienced in the past through habitat loss, agricultural intensification, roost destruction, pesticides and deliberate killing.
Bats are currently one of the wildlife groups that appear to be responding to the protection afforded by the Habitats Directive and the sustained effort that government, the public and conservationists have made to conserve them. The Habitats Directive provides an essential mechanism for safeguarding vulnerable species and habitats whilst ensuring social and economic needs are met. Diluting this legislation will certainly harm bats and other wildlife and it will not be a positive way forward.
A call to action
Bats are great natural pest control agents and can consume 80-100% of their body mass every night. The protection of bats and their habitats undoubtedly brings us lots of benefits. It's important to remember that the legislation that protects UK bats also protects a total of 53 threatened bat species found across Europe, which would be at much greater risk without this legal protection.
A technical report by the European Environment Agency suggests that bat species included in a prototype indicator across 9 European countries appear to have increased by 43% at hibernation sites between 1993 and 2011. We need to keep this momentum going which is why we are asking everyone to defend the legislation that protects nature.
You can tell us and the EU Commission how you feel about bats in our campaign.