In 2020, the National Museum of Natural History at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (NMNHS), being a part of the COST program, participated in the project Climate change and bats: from science to conservation (Climbats — COST Action CA18107), supported by the Bulgarian National Science Fund.
Climate change is a serious threat to the natural communities and ecosystem services that they provide. Bats are sensitive to human-induced changes in their habitat, and fluctuations in temperature and precipitation, due to climate change, may affect their eco-physiology, distribution and ultimately their survivor.
By monitoring the winter activity of cave dwelling bats and insects in an area with relatively warm periods during winter we can evaluate the potential impact of the discrepancy in the seasonal activity of bats and their prey caused by climate change. This goal is challenging, requiring an interdisciplinary approach and the unification of the efforts of chiropterologists and entomologists from the NMNHS.
In order to monitor the winter activity of the insects, the entomologists from the museum placed 12 flight interception traps in the crowns of various tree species in the the different habitats in the Iskar gorge (Lakatnik railroad station and Milanovo Vill.). All chosen places are potential foraging habitats of bats hibernating in the caves in the protected area Lakatnishki skali. The cave Temnata dupka (one of the longest in Bulgaria), the Razhishkata cave and others are winter and summer roost for over 10 bat species. The Razhizhshkata cave is a significant hibernacula of Greater horseshoe bats and Schreibers’s bent-winged bats.
On 5 of March, Assoc. Prof. Nikolay Simov and Assoc. Prof. Mario Langurov from NMNHS, collected the first samples from the flight interseption traps and bats’ guano from Razhihkata cave. Whether bats feed during the winter months and therefore leave the caves to hunt, remains to be answered. The first results are very encouraging because the collected material is a lot and also due to a very peculiar finding. A flat bug species was newly recorded for the Bulgarian fauna in one of the samples. We hope that this is just the beginning of exciting discoveries.
It is very likely that climate change will have a negative impact on bat populations in Europe, and hence this will have an effect on the regulation of insects in agricultural areas, forests and urban areas. The lack of knowledge on this topic hinders the development of preventive strategies to mitigate possible negative impacts on bats in the future. The current COST project aims to fill these gaps.