Clearcut and Deferment Harvests

Response of forest bats to clearcut harvests has been mixed across forest types and species of bats (Table 5.1). For example, three studies each in different locations within the Pacific coast forest type found no response to clearcuts by little brown bats, Myotis lucifugus, in British Columbia (Lunde and Harestad 1986), a decrease in overall bat activity over clearcuts in south-eastern Alaskan rainforests (Parker et al. 1996), and an increase in activity of big brown bats, Eptesicus fuscus, silver-haired bats, Lasionycteris noctivagans, and Townsend's big-eared bats, Corynorhinus townsendii, in clearcuts in western Washington (Erickson and West 1996). Patterns in bat activity recorded in and around clearcut harvests are influenced by three factors: the number of years post-harvest when data were collected, the size and shape of cutblocks studied, and the assemblage of bat species present in the area. When reported, the age of clearcut stands in North America evaluated post-harvest ranged from 1.5 to 17 years. This range in age is wide and likely spans considerable variation in above-ground habitat structure due to differences in the amounts of regeneration present; thus, a varied response by bats across studies and geographic locations should be expected. In montane eucalypt forests of south-eastern Australia, bat activity peaked in 165-year-old wildfire regrowth rather than in younger regrowth from clear-felling operations (Brown et al. 1997). Unfortunately, the size and shape of clearcuts studied are rarely reported so an evaluation of the effects of cut size and shape on bat activity cannot be made.

Focusing on traits is likely to provide more insights into the response of bats to the large gaps created by clearcut harvests. In North America, two trends are evident. First, the creation of less obstructed flight space over clearcut stands generally leads to increased levels of activity of edge/open-space bats that possess moderate to high aspect ratios and often higher wing loadings (Lacki et al. 2007). This mix of bats includes the foliage-roosting Lasiurus species, along with others (Lasionycteris and Eptesicus) (Table 5.1). The length of years post-harvest at which this increase in bat activity is sustained is less clear and likely is affected by tree species composition and the speed at which regeneration proceeds in harvested stands at a particular geographic location. Second, the response to clearcut harvests between Myotis species varies both within and among species (Patriquin and Barclay 2003), with some increase in activity associated with linear edge habitats at the periphery of cuts but reduced activity in the centre of harvested stands, except where residual patches are left behind (Hogberg et al. 2002). As our ability to distinguish among Myotis species increases with technological advances in acoustic detectors and software packages (Britzke et al. 2011), resolution among the full suite of Myotis bats in North America should become possible allowing for a more in-depth and complete evaluation of bat response to edge effects in actively managed forests.

Data on bat responses to even-aged systems other than clearcuts are sorely lacking. A study of bat activity in deferment harvests found high levels of activity of silver-haired bats, L. noctivagans, in stands with 6–10 m2/ha of basal area remaining (Owen et al. 2004), and the only study examining bat activity in shelterwood harvests (30 to 50 % reductions in basal area) observed higher levels of activity in three species of bats that have wing morphologies and echolocation call structures possessed by edge/open-space bats (Titchenell et al. 2011). Patterns of habitat use by radio-tagged northern long-eared bats, M. septentrionalis, a closedspace bat, showed this species spent limited time in deferment harvest stands, especially harvested sites with more open canopies and less cluttered foraging space (Owen et al. 2003).

For roosting bats, gap release and shelterwood systems retain tall and large diameter hollow-bearing trees within stands possessing less clutter than surrounding forest regenerating after harvest and these offer potential roosts for bats. However, in Western Australia, southern forest bat, V. regulus, avoided locating roosts in shelterwood treatments when older forest was available nearby (Webala et al. 2010). In general, remnant trees in these silvicultural treatments, including retained 'habitat trees', were not preferred as roost sites by V. regulus, though a second species (N. gouldi) frequently used such trees. One possible reason for avoiding using 'habitat trees' as roosts was the relatively low density of hollow roosts (see 3.2 Deadwood availability and hollow tree density).

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