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The University of Southampton

Research project: Investigating the combined effects of environmental pollutants - Dormant

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The impact of light, noise and electromagnetic radiation from anthropogenic sources is of growing ecological concern in the wake of increasing global urbanisation and development. Understanding the influence of these traditionally non-recognised ecological challenges individually is still very much in its infancy and even less is known about the combined effects of these pollutants despite the growing need for species-specific management plans and the development of evidenced-based conservation policy.

Bats and the invertebrate communities on which they predate represent an ideal but challenging focus for this study given their nocturnal habits, the unique mechanism by which they orient and forage in their environment, and the growing body of evidence that suggests they are highly sensitive to direct and indirect anthropogenic-induced disturbances. Despite the propensity of bats to roost in and hunt near man-made structures the implications resulting from exposure to cumulative environmental pollutants has yet to be determined for all 18 of the cryptic bat species in the UK.

All British bats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981, as amended) in England. Additionally, all are listed under the European Community ‘Habitats Directive’ (Annex II and IV, 92/43/EEC) which legally obligates its member states to ensure bats are strictly protected and disturbance is prevented or carefully mitigated, and ‘special’ areas are designated for their conservation. However, what constitutes as disturbance remains a ‘grey area’ in current litigation, due to the absence of a unifying study which illuminates the exact thresholds of these stressors that bats find disruptive.

This research proposes to map the combined influence of three pollutants in relation to bat and invertebrate activity in order to define species-specific thresholds for exposure to these combined environmental stressors. This will help guide ecological policy by feeding into Environmental Impact Assessments for urban planning and ensure mitigation strategies for future urban development projects are fit-for-purpose.

Bat in its environment
Bat in its environment

Associated research themes

This research aims to investigate the combined effects of three artificial environmental stressors - electromagnetic radiation, light, and noise – on bats and their invertebrate prey.

Related research groups

Water and Environmental Engineering Group
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