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

Importance of Bats for Cave Ecosytems

Due to the absence of primary production and general scarcity of food underground, most life in caves is invertebrate and largely dependent on energy sources from the surface such as penetrating tree roots and organic debris washed in by percolating waters or floods (Gillieson 1996). While bat guano appears to be less significant for cave-restricted invertebrates (often referred to as troglobites or troglobionts) inhabiting temperate caves, a considerable proportion of the terrestrial fauna in tropical caves depends upon its continued deposition (Deharveng and Bedos 2012). The significance of this lies in the fact that subterranean invertebrates are globally diverse and caves are thought to rank among the hottest of biodiversity hotspots (sensu Myers et al. 2000) worldwide in terms of their levels of species endemism and threat (Gilbert and Deharveng 2002; Whitten 2009).

It has long been assumed that guano accumulations support less invertebrate diversity and few narrowly-endemic species compared to low-energy cave habitats. However, this view is challenged by the recent discovery of a huge radiation of typically guanobiotic Cambalopsid millipedes across Southeast Asia, whereby each karst area harbors one or two site-endemic species (Golovatch et al. 2011). Further, as most tropical karsts have yet to be investigated and cave-restricted species new to science continue to be discovered in virtually every survey (both troglobionts and guanobionts), the era of tropical cave biodiversity exploration has clearly only just begun. Notwithstanding this, due to the major contribution guanobionts make to overall cave diversity, disturbance to bats is increasingly regarded as one of the most serious threats to tropical cave invertebrates. Paradoxically, this concern is probably more relevant to common and widespread bat species

(e.g. C. plicatus in Asia) than rarer or non-colonial species however, since the former produce the most guano in cave ecosystems (Deharveng and Bedos 2012).

 
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