Bats in Agricultural Landscapes in Zambia
A Biological & Medical Sciences, Earth Science project
“Investigating Species Assemblages, Activity Levels and Feeding Ecology of Chiroptera Species in Anthropogenic Landscapes in Zambia”
The ecological benefits that nature brings are largely underappreciated as they are very difficult to quantify. With anthropogenic landscapes expanding, ecosystem services become increasingly important for our own activities. Agricultural activities are expected to provide for ever increasing human populations and have relied heavily on large areas of land and manmade chemicals to increase productivity. Alternative conservation farming techniques are becoming more popular as we realise the negative impacts of intensive practices on our environment, as well as ourselves.
Bats are known to contribute valuable insect pest control services around the world. They are a diverse taxa and can provide ecosystem services from which humans benefit. Many bats provide insect pest control services to agricultural industries around the world, but the factors affecting these predator-prey interactions (e.g. pesticide use, landscape context) are still poorly understood.
With rapid human population growth, threats to bats have increased with the risk that ecologically and economically important species may be lost before we can understand their importance; this is particularly true in Africa.
This research project aims to investigate the influence of farming practices on bats in Zambia, and their potential role in delivering ecosystem services.
Priority Research Questions:
1.Are bat species richness and activity levels on agricultural land influenced by crop type and habitat variables?
2.Are known insect pest species present in the diet of bats foraging on farmland?
3.Do pesticide regimes influence bat occurrence and activity levels?
The research project is well underway with one successful field season completed – it is self funded and has developed into a PhD project envisaged to take another 3 years to finish. Some funding for aspects of fieldwork has been obtained through the Rufford Foundation, however I am looking for funding to support the other aspects of my study such as fees – as I designed the project myself and have no PhD sponsor. The importance and success of the project so far has been confirmed by the University acceptance and having obtained funding from the Rufford Foundation, however its continued success relies on additional funding support. I really appreciate any help you can give.
|Academic Institution:||University of Stirling|
|Course:||Research Postgraduate in Ecology, 2016-2022|
|User Profile:||Helen Taylor-Boyd|
What is your motivation for doing a PhD?
I have had a passion for wildlife all my life - big and little. Having completed my MSc I got involved in wildlife organisations and started work on bat research and conservation in Zambia. I realised that the research was essential and that I could develop it as a PhD so that it could obtain better academic recognition.
Why did you choose your research topic/title
I became interested in bats whilst volunteering for bat enthusiast groups in the UK and realised the limited information on bats in Zambia where I grew up. With land clearance for agriculture being one of the biggest causes of habitat loss and fragmentation, I was keen to focus the study in these landscapes.
MSc Conservation Biology & BSc Zoology Member of the Impact Assessment Association of Zambia and International Association for Landscape Ecology Invited speaker to the UK regional Bat Conservation Trust Conferences, 2017 Tanzania Rufford Conference (as keynote speaker) and University of Stirling Impact Symposium 2017 to present the project work
What difference will this research make in your life and the lives of others?
My postgraduate research aims to add to our general understanding of the impacts of agricultural intensification on bats and their potential ecological roles in agricultural landscapes. The following hypotheses are being tested: • Bat species richness and activity levels on agricultural land are influenced by crop type and habitat variables in agricultural landscapes • Known insect pest species are present in the diet of bats foraging on farmland • Existing pesticide regimes influence bat occurrence and activity levels Progress in developing methods to assess and predict conservation status of bats and to quantify ecosystem services provided by bats is hindered by the lack of baseline ecological data in situ. By providing this information for agricultural landscapes in Zambia it may be used to inform further study and conservation management plans for bats. Through training local field assistants, teachers and interacting with the general public, we can help people to understand bats reduce 'bat-human' conflict.