Peter van Loon
Ecology New Zealand Limited
Peter’s presentation at this year’s conference is titled “Bats – an Introduction and Arboricultural Perspective”. Peter is a Senior Ecologist at Ecology New Zealand Ltd with a joint background in the fields of ecology and arboriculture. Peter has completed Bachelors and Masters degrees in Environmental Science in 2009 and 2012 along with a Diploma in Arboriculture in 2018.
Peter is a terrestrial ecologist specialising in native fauna management and is a Department of Conservation Bat Recovery Group recognised bat ecologist. Peter has been involved in numerous surveys for bats throughout New Zealand and his joint discipline background provides a different perspective in managing trees where bats are present or could be present in the future.
Bats – An Introduction and Arboricultural Perspectives
Pekapeka, or bats in New Zealand are rarely seen, but their profile is on the rise. The long-tailed bat, winner of the 2021 Bird of the Year contest, is continuing to be detected in more areas throughout New Zealand, however their numbers are continuing to decline in most regions. Detecting bats is inherently difficult. They are nocturnal, very small and, for the most part, inaudible to humans without specialist equipment. Threats to native bats come from several angles, including introduced predators, urban expansion, and habitat loss.
Native bats are linked to the arboricultural sector through their utilisation of trees for roosting habitat and the presence of bats can have legal implications for tree felling works, and for those managing trees that may provide habitat for bats both now and in the future.
This presentation will detail a background to the ecology of New Zealand’s native bats and how they utilise trees at the individual and landscape level. Current knowledge of bat distribution will be discussed along with what is known about population trends, risks, and the difficulties in assessing bat population health.
Preserving bats throughout the country will require management at the local and landscape level. Bat habitat is, in theory, protected through the Resource Management Act; however, where bats are present, their range often extends beyond the legal protection boundaries of Significant Natural Areas. This results in a ‘no mans land’ where bat habitat is not protected, and tree felling occurs without precautionary measures of bat roost management.
The bats themselves are protected under the Wildlife Act, and this has implications for the arboriculture industry. The felling of a roosting tree with bats inside resulting in injury or death of bats could have disastrous consequences for local bat populations and could result in the collapse of a colony that is already facing local extinction. The Department of Conservation Bat Roost Protocols have been developed to minimise the risk of such an event, however the implementing of these protocols is sporadic and often only takes place where resource consent conditions dictate this requirement.
To help preserve bat populations, accessibility and cost effectiveness to implementing of the Bat Roost Protocols may be required – an opportunity for the arboricultural and ecology industries to collaborate. The arboricultural industry also has the opportunity to consider bat habitat in the management of urban forests for both existing and potential future bat populations.