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Home arrow Environment arrow Bats in the Anthropocene: Conservation of Bats in a Changing World

Responses to Landscape Structure

Fragmentation studies have increasingly shifted their focus from being largely patch-centered toward taking a broader landscape-scale approach, thus acknowledging the overriding importance of the matrix and the existence of gradients of habitat conditions and quality as crucial determinants of species responses (Kupfer et al. 2006; Driscoll et al. 2013; Cisneros et al. 2015). Such gradients are provided, for example, by mosaics of old-growth forest, successional habitat, and different forms of agriculture.

This paradigm shift is to some degree reflected within the more recent bat literature, as a growing number of studies have adopted matrix-inclusive approaches to studying fragmentation, although overall the number of studies is still small. In the broader literature, empirical evidence suggests widespread negative effects of habitat loss on many taxa (i.e., reduced abundance or density), whereas the effects of fragmentation per se are generally much weaker and may vary strongly in magnitude and direction of response (Fahrig 2003). In agreement with this, forest cover is a better predictor of bat assemblage characteristics (species richness or composition) than are measures of landscape configuration in Neotropical landbridge island systems (Meyer and Kalko 2008a; Henry et al. 2010). On the other hand, consistent responses to landscape composition or configuration at the assemblage level were harder to identify in studies conducted in fragmented Neotropical rain forest landscapes in which the matrix was a mix of anthropogenic land uses (Gorresen and Willig 2004; Klingbeil and Willig 2009, 2010; Cisneros et al. 2015). A difficulty facing bat fragmentation studies is that responses tend to be highly species specific, which is often overlooked by diversity metrics applied at the assemblage level (Klingbeil and Willig 2009). This might be more important in low-contrast systems, in which the quality of matrix habitats likely mitigates some of the negative effects of fragmentation on biological communities.

At the population level, available evidence suggests that tropical bats respond in complex ways to landscape composition (i.e., the amount of suitable habitat available across the patch types represented in the landscape) and configuration (Gorresen and Willig 2004; Henry et al. 2007b; Klingbeil and Willig 2009, 2010). For instance, Klingbeil and Willig (2009, 2010) found that, apart from being scale dependent (see Sect. 4.5.1.4), abundance responses by phyllostomid bats to landscape structure in the Amazon were highly species and ensemble specific, and differed between seasons. In the dry season, abundances of frugivores responded primarily to changes in forest cover (i.e., landscape composition), whereas configurational metrics elicited the strongest response in the wet season. Gleaning animalivores showed the opposite pattern, responding to landscape configuration in the dry season and to landscape composition in the wet season. Such divergent responses suggest an important role of spatiotemporal variation in the abundance and diversity of food resources (Klingbeil and Willig 2010; Cisneros et al. 2015). Together with seasonal differences in time and energy budgets linked to reproduction, these will affect species' foraging and movement behavior, and could lead to seasonal shifts in diet composition (Durant et al. 2013; Cisneros et al. 2015). Such links remain little explored, yet future research in this regard may prove highly informative.

 
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