Launch a Global Bat Database

Phyllostomus hastatus, © J.G. Martínez

Prioritizing conservation action among 1300+ bat species requires the best possible scientific information. Unfortunately, there are many gaps in the current state of knowledge for many bat species and their habitats, which greatly constrains informed decision making.

Furthermore, the body of bat knowledge that does exist is all too often scattered across the globe, held in various individual and institutional databases, and in many cases, may still reside on the original paper datasheets or on the field laptops of the individuals that collected the data.

These and other challenges make it difficult and even impossible to access the critical data for comprehensive analyses to inform priority conservation programs and research projects. For this reason, Bat Conservation International and Washington DC-based NatureServe are partnering to establish a permanent global inventory for bats that will be accessible for all users via the Internet. Once launched, the Global Bat Conservation Data Center, will provide an invaluable resource to inform bat conservation at a global scale and by all stakeholders.

This long-term initiative will allow objective, science-based conservation and land-use decision making worldwide with bats in mind. We will work with individual researchers, museum collections, research institutions, scientific networks, and government agencies to link their disparate efforts and maximize the availability and value of their data collections by connecting them into the world’s only comprehensive database focused on advancing bat conservation.

The Global Bat Conservation Data Center, currently under development, is also meant to unite the world’s leading researchers and bat conservationists around common understandings of taxonomy, the status of populations and species, and the most urgent conservation needs. Our web-accessible data management system will expand access to and application of essential information about all bats around the world. Meanwhile, we will continue to collate information and catalyze new data collection on priorities and gaps.

Ultimately, the combined data will be used to create biodiversity indicators of bat population health for input into proposed biodiversity dashboards that assesses status and trends of biodiversity across broad landscapes as well as at local scales, effectively translating biodiversity data into relevant, accessible information for broad audiences and policymakers.

Bats represent greater than 20% of the world’s mammal diversity. Their economic and ecological importance, combined with serious population declines, justify the urgent need for comprehensive data to inform proactive conservation. Currently, 17.6% of the planet’s bat species are classified as Data Deficient by the IUCN Red List, meaning that the global scientific community lacks enough basic information to assess the health and status of more than 200 species of bats.

Wide knowledge gaps remain, and a wider chasm exists between the collection of this knowledge and its availability to the decision makers whose policies will help determine the fate of critical habitats and limited natural resources. Our initiative will establish an enduring framework to resolve this dangerous disconnect between the value of bats and regard for their management and conservation. Decisions for ecotourism operations, wind farm placement, choice of agricultural pesticides, the design of protected areas, and other issues should consider the impact on bats.

A global bat database will help overcome this as it unifies, digitizes, and improves the accuracy of large existing datasets while creating a methodological and technical infrastructure for globally consistent collection of new bat data and for implementation of urgent conservation actions.