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Conservation of Key Underground sites: the database

The group was established at the AC4 as the IWG on "Transboundary programme – habitats: Data compilation" 

texts and maps compiled by Tony Mitchell-Jones, updated by the Secretariat in 2016

Introduction

Underground habitats

Underground habitats, such as caves, mines, fortifications and tunnels, play a vital role in the life-cycle of many European bat species, which use them as hibernation, breeding and transitional roost-sites, including during migration. Particularly in the latter case, it is often difficult to establish the importance of sites, owing to the transitory nature of their occupation. However, such sites may often be key to the survival of a species in a particular region of the continent. The significance and threats to such sites have been highlighted in the IUCN Microchiroptera Action Plan (2001).

Recognising the importance of underground habitats and the many threats they face, Eurobats Resolution 2.4 (Bonn, 1998) set in place a project to identify and list the most important underground habitats across the Agreement area. Listing is considered an important step towards ensuring that important sites are appropriately protected and managed to maintain their continuing value to bats. In parallel with this data-gathering project, the Advisory Committee was instructed to prepare guidelines on the protection and management of underground habitats. These were published in 2007 and can be found here.

Guidance on the selection of important underground habitats by Parties and Range States, including a description of the information required,  was prepared and adopted by the Advisory Committee in 2000 (see here), with Parties encouraged to submit data using a standardised data structure. The importance of this work was reiterated in Resolution 4.3 (Sofia, 2003), which also called on Parties to ensure that listed sites are protected by law and, where appropriate, physically protected against unauthorised entry. Given the uneven distribution of both bat species and populations, as well as underground habitats, across the Agreement area, Parties and Range States were asked to use their own judgement to select their most important sites.

Sites submitted by Parties and Range States

By the time of the 7th Meeting of Parties (Brussels, 2014) 1,895 sites had been submitted for inclusion in the list.
Totals for Parties and Range States are shown in the table below (Parties are shown in bold  Italic):



Country  Number of sites
Albania 6
Algeria 26
Austria 46
Belarus 7
Belgium 97
Bulgaria 86
Croatia 55
Czech Republic 62
Denmark 6
Estonia 8
Finland 6
France 224
Georgia 4
Germany 301
Greece 67
Hungary 82
Ireland 14
Italy 109
Latvia 20
Lithuania 6
Luxembourg 1
Montenegro 10
Morocco 27
Norway 24
Poland 189
Portugal 76
Romania 57
Russian Federation 26
Slovakia 84
Slovenia 65
Switzerland 5
Syrian Arab Republic 10
Ukraine 35
United Kingdom 54
Total  1895

In order for these nationally-important sites to benefit from listing, it is essential that their value is widely recognised. Resolution 6.16 (Prague, 2010) implements the Eurobats Conservation and Management plan for 2011-2014 and includes an instruction that:  “The list of internationally important underground sites for bats identified by Parties and reviewed at the 15th Meeting of the Advisory Committee and site assessment criteria should be published in a suitable format and be accessible through the EUROBATS website.

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