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Sussex's rare bat population at risk from fracking, report finds
Updated 9:08am Wednesday 2nd April 2014 in News
Fracking could seriously harm Sussex’s rare bat population, a report has found.
The Weald Basin is home to the endangered and protected Barbestella bat.
But a report by the RSPB into the environmental impact of fracking found the derricks needed for exploratory drilling for shale gas could have an adverse impact on the creatures.
Recently submitted plans for exploratory drilling in the basin included proposals for a 45-metre derrick to be lit 24 hours a day, with additional lighting required for safety reasons.
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The impact of light pollution on nature was recently highlighted by a study the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, which said “there is potential for some aspect of life and its rhythms – migration, reproduction, feeding – to be affected by artificial light”.
It continued: “A well known example is the effect on the feeding of bats caused by insects clustering around outdoor light sources.”
The study concluded major threats to the species included anything which affected their roosts, forage areas and flightline habitats.
In one previous case a large floodlit pumping station near Pulborough interrupted the forage patterns of a less light sensitive species of bats.
The report also said there is early evidence that barbastelle bats are responsive to light pollution.
Sussex has been at the forefront of the battle over the controversial gas extraction.
Last year Balcombe saw anti-fracking protestors gather at drilling firm Cuadrilla’s test site.
The company later said it would not be fracking in the area.
And a group of landowners attempted to use the trespass law to stop energy firm Celtique Energy from exploratory drilling in the Fernhurst area.
An RSPB spokeswoman said rare and protected species, including barbastelle bats and nightjars, are among the wildlife likely to be affected by fracking in Sussex.
RSPB conservation officer Alison Giacomelli said: “The High Weald in Sussex is a protected landscape which has been licensed for fracking and it is home to internationally important population of nightjars, which are vulnerable to disturbance.
“These areas are legally protected because of their special landscape and wildlife, so it is contradictory to allow fracking which potentially affects the countryside and the important species living there.
“The effects of fracking in sensitive areas on wildlife and the risks of water pollution are such that we would recommend those areas are avoided altogether for exploration.”
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