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

Deadwood Availability and Hollow Tree Density

Until the late twentieth century, in many parts of Europe and North America, deadwood in managed forests was removed due to concerns over forest health. While this is still common practice in some areas, the key role played by dead and decaying wood in the functioning and productivity of forest ecosystems, and its importance for biodiversity, has gained increasing recognition over the past 20 years (Humphrey 2005). In Australia, deadwood removal has been confined to plantations, though recognition of the importance of specifically retaining old trees with hollows in managed forests originated in the 1980s. A preference for roosts in dead and dying trees has been noted for Barbastella and Nyctalus species in Europe (Russo et al. 2004; Ruczyn´ski and Bogdanowicz 2008; Hillen et al. 2010), and high densities of dead trees appear to be strongly correlated with the presence of roosts of bark and cavity-roosting bats in forested ecosystems across North America (Mattson et al. 1996; Sasse and Pekins 1996; Rabe et al. 1998; Waldien et al. 2000; Cryan et al. 2001; Bernardos et al. 2004; Broders and Forbes 2004; Miles et al. 2006; Perry and Thill 2007b; Arnett and Hayes 2009).

The importance of high roost density has also been reported in Australia. In dry Jarrah forest of Western Australia, both Gould's long-eared bat, Nyctophilus gouldi, and the southern forest bat, Vespadelus regulus, preferred roosting in older forest that contained a much higher density of trees with hollows (16–32 trees ha−1) than shelterwood creation and gap release sites (8–12 trees ha−1) (Webala et al. 2010). These mature forest hollow tree densities are comparable to average densities of live and dead hollow trees in roost areas used by Gould's wattled bat, Chalinolobus gouldii, (17 ha−1) and the lesser long-eared bat, N. geoffroyi, (18 ha−1) in a fragmented landscape in south-eastern Australia (Lumsden et al. 2002). Greater densities of hollow trees likely facilitate roost switching in bark and cavityroosting bats or fission–fusion behaviours (Kerth and König 1999; Willis and Brigham 2004). These behaviours lead to complex patterns of use and movement among available roost trees by colonies of forest bats. The variation in numbers of roosts between core and peripheral areas of roost networks is further influenced by the density and spatial distribution of available roost trees, as demonstrated for Rafinesque's big-eared bat, Corynorhinus rafinesquii, in south-eastern bottomland hardwood forests of North America (Johnson et al. 2012b). Roost networks of northern long-eared bat, Myotis septentrionalis, in actively managed forests were scale-free and connected to a single central-node roost tree (Johnson et al. 2012a). A similar pattern was observed for the open-space foraging white-striped free-tail bat, Tadarida australis, in south-east Queensland (Rhodes et al. 2006). Given these patterns, we postulate that implementation of silvicultural systems, which promote retention of higher densities of dead and old living trees across forested ecosystems, should benefit barkand cavity-roosting bats and facilitate 'natural patterns' in colony behaviours, social interactions, and the use of roost networks.

 
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