Frugivorous bats maintain functional habitat connectivity in agricultural landscapes but rely strongly on natural forest fragments.
ABSTRACT: Anthropogenic changes in land use threaten biodiversity and ecosystem functioning by the conversion of natural habitat into agricultural mosaic landscapes, often with drastic consequences for the associated fauna. The first step in the development of efficient conservation plans is to understand movement of animals through complex habitat mosaics. Therefore, we studied ranging behavior and habitat use in Dermanura watsoni (Phyllostomidae), a frugivorous bat species that is a valuable seed disperser in degraded ecosystems. Radio-tracking of sixteen bats showed that the animals strongly rely on natural forest. Day roosts were exclusively located within mature forest fragments. Selection ratios showed that the bats foraged selectively within the available habitat and positively selected natural forest. However, larger daily ranges were associated with higher use of degraded habitats. Home range geometry and composition of focal foraging areas indicated that wider ranging bats performed directional foraging bouts from natural to degraded forest sites traversing the matrix over distances of up to three hundred meters. This behavior demonstrates the potential of frugivorous bats to functionally connect fragmented areas by providing ecosystem services between natural and degraded sites, and highlights the need for conservation of natural habitat patches within agricultural landscapes that meet the roosting requirements of bats.
Project description:Human-modified habitats are expanding rapidly; many tropical countries have highly fragmented and degraded forests. Preserving biodiversity in these areas involves protecting species-like frugivorous bats-that are important to forest regeneration. Fruit bats provide critical ecosystem services including seed dispersal, but studies of how their diets are affected by habitat change have often been rather localized. This study used stable isotope analyses (?15N and ?13C measurement) to examine how two fruit bat species in Madagascar, Pteropus rufus (n = 138) and Eidolon dupreanum (n = 52) are impacted by habitat change across a large spatial scale. Limited data for Rousettus madagascariensis are also presented. Our results indicated that the three species had broadly overlapping diets. Differences in diet were nonetheless detectable between P. rufus and E. dupreanum, and these diets shifted when they co-occurred, suggesting resource partitioning across habitats and vertical strata within the canopy to avoid competition. Changes in diet were correlated with a decrease in forest cover, though at a larger spatial scale in P. rufus than in E. dupreanum. These results suggest fruit bat species exhibit differing responses to habitat change, highlight the threats fruit bats face from habitat change, and clarify the spatial scales at which conservation efforts could be implemented.
Project description:Land transformation into agricultural areas and the intensification of management practices represent two of the most devastating threats to biodiversity worldwide. Within this study, we investigated the effect of intensively managed agroecosystems on bat activity and species composition within two focal areas differing in landscape structure. We sampled bats via acoustic monitoring and insects with flight interception traps in banana and pineapple monoculture plantations and two nearby protected forested areas within the area of Sarapiquí, Costa Rica. Our results revealed that general occurrence and feeding activity of bats was higher above plantations compared to forested areas. We also recorded higher species richness at recording sites in plantations. This trend was especially strong within a fragmented landscape, with only four species recorded in forests, but 12 above pineapple plantations. Several bat species, however, occurred only once or twice above plantations, and forest specialist species such as Centronycteris centralis, Myotis riparius and Pteronotus mesoamericanus were only recorded at forest sites. Our results indicated, that mostly mobile open space and edge foraging bat species can use plantations as potential foraging habitat and might even take advantage of temporal insect outbreaks. However, forests are vital refugia for several species, including slower flying forest specialists, and thus a prerequisite to safeguard bat diversity within agricultural dominated landscapes.
Project description:Secondary forests and human-made forest gaps are conspicuous features of tropical landscapes. Yet, behavioral responses to these aspects of anthropogenically modified forests remain poorly investigated. Here, we analyze the effects of small human-made clearings and secondary forests on tropical bats by examining the guild- and species-level activity patterns of phyllostomids sampled in the Central Amazon, Brazil. Specifically, we contrast the temporal activity patterns and degree of temporal overlap of 6 frugivorous and 4 gleaning animalivorous species in old-growth forest and second-growth forest and of 4 frugivores in old-growth forest and forest clearings. The activity patterns of frugivores and gleaning animalivores did not change between old-growth forest and second-growth, nor did the activity patterns of frugivores between old-growth forest and clearings. However, at the species level, we detected significant differences for Artibeus obscurus (old-growth forest vs. second-growth) and A. concolor (old-growth forest vs. clearings). The degree of temporal overlap was greater than random in all sampled habitats. However, for frugivorous species, the degree of temporal overlap was similar between old-growth forest and second-growth; whereas for gleaning animalivores, it was lower in second-growth than in old-growth forest. On the contrary, forest clearings were characterized by increased temporal overlap between frugivores. Changes in activity patterns and temporal overlap may result from differential foraging opportunities and dissimilar predation risks. Yet, our analyses suggest that activity patterns of bats in second-growth and small forest clearings, 2 of the most prominent habitats in humanized tropical landscapes, varies little from the activity patterns in old-growth forest.
Project description:Agricultural practices lead to losses of natural resources and biodiversity. Maintaining forests alongside streams (riparian forest strips) has been used as a mechanism to minimize the impact of clearing for agriculture on biodiversity. To test the contribution of riparian forest strips to conserve biodiversity in production landscapes, we selected bats as a biodiversity model system and examined two dimensions of diversity: taxonomic and functional. We compared bat diversity and composition in forest, with and without stream habitat, and in narrow forest riparian strips surrounded by areas cleared for agriculture. We tested the hypothesis that riparian forest strips provide potential conservation value by providing habitat and serving as movement corridors for forest bat species. Riparian forest strips maintained 75% of the bat species registered in forested habitats. We found assemblage in sites with riparian forest strips were dominated by a few species with high abundance and included several species with low abundance. Bat species assemblage was more similar between sites with streams than between those sites to forests without stream habitat. These results highlight the importance of stream habitat in predicting presence of bat species. We registered similar number of guilds between forest sites and riparian forest strips sites. Relative to matrix habitats, stream and edge habitats in riparian forest strips sites were functionally more diverse, supporting our hypothesis about the potential conservation value of riparian forest strips. Results from this study suggest that maintaining riparian forest strips within cleared areas for agricultural areas helps conserve the taxonomic and functional diversity of bats. Also, it provides basic data to evaluate the efficacy of maintaining these landscape features for mitigating impacts of agricultural development on biodiversity. However, we caution that riparian forest strips alone are not sufficient for biodiversity maintenance; their value depends on maintenance of larger forest areas in their vicinity.
Project description:Habitat connectivity is important for tropical biodiversity conservation. Expansion of commodity crops, such as oil palm, fragments natural habitat areas, and strategies are needed to improve habitat connectivity in agricultural landscapes. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) voluntary certification system requires that growers identify and conserve forest patches identified as High Conservation Value Areas (HCVAs) before oil palm plantations can be certified as sustainable. We assessed the potential benefits of these conservation set-asides for forest connectivity.We mapped HCVAs and quantified their forest cover in 2015. To assess their contribution to forest connectivity, we modelled range expansion of forest-dependent populations with five dispersal abilities spanning those representative of poor dispersers (e.g. flightless insects) to more mobile species (e.g. large birds or bats) across 70 plantation landscapes in Borneo.Because only 21% of HCVA area was forested in 2015, these conservation set-asides currently provide few connectivity benefits. Compared to a scenario where HCVAs contain no forest (i.e. a no-RSPO scenario), current HCVAs improved connectivity by ~3% across all dispersal abilities. However, if HCVAs were fully reforested, then overall landscape connectivity could improve by ~16%. Reforestation of HCVAs had the greatest benefit for poor to intermediate dispersers (0.5-3 km per generation), generating landscapes that were up to 2.7 times better connected than landscapes without HCVAs. By contrast, connectivity benefits of HCVAs were low for highly mobile populations under current and reforestation scenarios, because range expansion of these populations was generally successful regardless of the amount of forest cover. Synthesis and applications. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) requires that High Conservation Value Areas (HCVAs) be set aside to conserve biodiversity, but HCVAs currently provide few connectivity benefits because they contain relatively little forest. However, reforested HCVAs have the potential to improve landscape connectivity for some forest species (e.g. winged insects), and we recommend active management by plantation companies to improve forest quality of degraded HCVAs (e.g. by enrichment planting). Future revisions to the RSPO's Principles and Criteria should also ensure that large (i.e. with a core area >2 km2) HCVAs are reconnected to continuous tracts of forest to maximize their connectivity benefits.
Project description:Our understanding of animal adaptations to human pressure is limited by the focus on rare taxa, despite that common species are more significant in shaping structure, function and service provision of ecosystems. Thus better understanding of their ecology and behavioural adjustments is central for drafting conservation actions. In this study, we used radio-telemetry on 21 individuals (10 females, 11 males) to provide data on spatial ecology, habitat selection and use of roosts of one of the commonest species, the whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus), inhabiting the Carpathian Mountains (southern Poland). We tested, whether this species prefers natural over human-modified landscapes to seek prey and roosts. Mean home range size of the whiskered bat in the Carpathian Mountains was 26.3 ha (SE ± 3.2, Local Convex Hull) and 110 ha (SE ± 22.1, Minimum Convex Polygon with all locations), and included between one and three patches, among which bats moved along linear environmental features, such as scrubby banks of streams or lines of trees. During foraging whiskered bats selected small woodlands within agricultural landscapes, avoided large mountain forests and open areas, and used built-up areas proportionally to their availability. Whiskered bats occupied roosts located mainly in buildings (>97%), at an average altitude of 547.9 m above sea level (SE ± 8.3). Roosts were used for 5.4 days, on average. Our study shows that whiskered bats adapted well to the mosaic of semi-natural and anthropogenic habitats. It highlights the importance of buildings serving as roosts and small woodlands used as foraging areas in human-dominated montane landscapes.
Project description:Landscape heterogeneity is regarded as a key factor for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem function in production landscapes. We investigated whether grassland sites at close vicinity to forested areas are more frequently used by bats. Considering that bats are important consumers of herbivorous insects, including agricultural pest, this is important for sustainable land management. Bat activity and species richness were assessed using repeated monitoring from May to September in 2010 with acoustic monitoring surveys on 50 grassland sites in the Biosphere Reserve Schorfheide-Chorin (North-East Germany). Using spatial analysis (GIS), we measured the closest distance of each grassland site to potentially connecting landscape elements (e.g., trees, linear vegetation, groves, running and standing water). In addition, we assessed the distance to and the percent land cover of forest remnants and urban areas in a 200 m buffer around the recording sites to address differences in the local landscape setting. Species richness and bat activity increased significantly with higher forest land cover in the 200 m buffer and at smaller distance to forested areas. Moreover, species richness increased in proximity to tree groves. Larger amount of forest land cover and smaller distance to forest also resulted in a higher activity of bats on grassland sites in the beginning of the year during May, June and July. Landscape elements near grassland sites also influenced species composition of bats and species richness of functional groups (open, edge and narrow space foragers). Our results highlight the importance of forested areas, and suggest that agricultural grasslands that are closer to forest remnants might be better buffered against outbreaks of agricultural pest insects due to higher species richness and higher bat activity. Furthermore, our data reveals that even for highly mobile species such as bats, a very dense network of connecting elements within the landscape is beneficial to promote activity in open areas and thus assure vital ecosystem function in agricultural landscapes.
Project description:The conservation of biodiversity within tropical forest regions does not lie only in the maintenance of natural forest areas, but on conservation strategies directed toward agricultural land types within which they are embedded. This study investigated variations in bird assemblages of different functional groups of forest-dependent birds in three agricultural land types, relative to distance from the interior of 34 tropical forest patches of varying sizes. Point counts were used to sample birds at each study site visited. Data from counts were used to estimate species richness, species evenness, and Simpson's diversity of birds. Mean species richness, evenness, and diversity were modeled as responses and as a function of agricultural land type, distance from the forest interior and three site-scale vegetation covariates (density of large trees, fruiting trees, and patch size) using generalized linear mixed-effect models. Mean observed species richness of birds varied significantly within habitat types. Mean observed species richness was highest in forest interior sites while sites located in farm centers recorded the lowest mean species richness. Species richness of forest specialists was strongly influenced by the type of agricultural land use. Fallow lands, density of large trees, and patch size strongly positively influenced forest specialists. Insectivorous and frugivorous birds were more species-rich in fallow lands while monoculture plantations favored nectarivorous birds. Our results suggest that poor agricultural practices can lead to population declines of forest-dependent birds particularly specialist species. Conservation actions should include proper land use management that ensures heterogeneity through retention of native tree species on farms in tropical forest-agriculture landscapes.
Project description:Neotropical forests are being increasingly replaced by a mosaic of patches of different successional stages, agricultural fields and pasture lands. Consequently, the identification of factors shaping the performance of taxa in anthropogenic landscapes is gaining importance, especially for taxa playing critical roles in ecosystem functioning. As phyllostomid bats provide important ecological services through seed dispersal, pollination and control of animal populations, in this study we assessed the relationships between phyllostomid occurrence and the variation in local and landscape level habitat attributes caused by disturbance. We mist-netted phyllostomids in 12 sites representing 4 successional stages of a tropical dry forest (initial, early, intermediate and late). We also quantitatively characterized the habitat attributes at the local (vegetation structure complexity) and the landscape level (forest cover, area and diversity of patches). Two focal scales were considered for landscape characterization: 500 and 1000 m. During 142 sampling nights, we captured 606 individuals representing 15 species and 4 broad guilds. Variation in phyllostomid assemblages, ensembles and populations was associated with variation in local and landscape habitat attributes, and this association was scale-dependent. Specifically, we found a marked guild-specific response, where the abundance of nectarivores tended to be negatively associated with the mean area of dry forest patches, while the abundance of frugivores was positively associated with the percentage of riparian forest. These results are explained by the prevalence of chiropterophilic species in the dry forest and of chiropterochorous species in the riparian forest. Our results indicate that different vegetation classes, as well as a multi-spatial scale approach must be considered for evaluating bat response to variation in landscape attributes. Moreover, for the long-term conservation of phyllostomids in anthropogenic landscapes, we must realize that the management of the habitat at the landscape level is as important as the conservation of particular forest fragments.
Project description:Increasing human land use for agriculture and housing leads to the loss of natural habitat and to widespread declines in wild bees. Bee foraging dynamics and fitness depend on the availability of resources in the surrounding landscape, but how precisely landscape related resource differences affect bee foraging patterns remains unclear. To investigate how landscape and its interaction with season and weather drive foraging and resource intake in social bees, we experimentally compared foraging activity, the allocation of foragers to different resources (pollen, nectar, and resin) and overall resource intake in the Australian stingless bee Tetragonula carbonaria (Apidae, Meliponini). Bee colonies were monitored in different seasons over two years. We compared foraging patterns and resource intake between the bees' natural habitat (forests) and two landscapes differently altered by humans (suburban gardens and agricultural macadamia plantations). We found foraging activity as well as pollen and nectar forager numbers to be highest in suburban gardens, intermediate in forests and low in plantations. Foraging patterns further differed between seasons, but seasonal variations strongly differed between landscapes. Sugar and pollen intake was low in plantations, but contrary with our predictions, it was even higher in gardens than in forests. In contrast, resin intake was similar across landscapes. Consequently, differences in resource availability between natural and altered landscapes strongly affect foraging patterns and thus resource intake in social bees. While agricultural monocultures largely reduce foraging success, suburban gardens can increase resource intake well above rates found in natural habitats of bees, indicating that human activities can both decrease and increase the availability of resources in a landscape and thus reduce or enhance bee fitness.