Although open landscapes are typically regarded as inhospitable matrix for several species of forest bats, their role may be crucial for maintaining gene flow among otherwise isolated populations occurring in distant forest fragments. The barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus) is a bat species previously known to depend on mature forest and dead trees in its wide yet fragmented range. We tested the general hypothesis that viable populations of this bat may persist in open landscapes whose current structure is the result of historical deforestation. We unveiled the roosting and foraging ecology of B. barbastellus in a clay badland area of central Italy where forested habitats are absent and woody vegetation is scarce. Bats in badlands used rock crevices in lieu of the typical maternity tree-roosts and largely foraged in non-forest habitat, alongside riparian vegetation, where they found moth-rich hunting sites. Body condition and sex ratio did not differ from those documented in a source population found in mature forest in the same region. Our study identifies the hitherto overlooked importance of apparently unsuitable landscapes for the conservation of bats regarded as forests specialists and highlights that such environments and the associated occurrence of favoured prey should be carefully considered in management plans.

The importance of non-forest landscapes for the conservation of forest bats: lessons from barbastelles (Barbastella barbastellus)

ANCILLOTTO, LEONARDO;CISTRONE, LUCA;RUSSO, DANILO
2014

Abstract

Although open landscapes are typically regarded as inhospitable matrix for several species of forest bats, their role may be crucial for maintaining gene flow among otherwise isolated populations occurring in distant forest fragments. The barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus) is a bat species previously known to depend on mature forest and dead trees in its wide yet fragmented range. We tested the general hypothesis that viable populations of this bat may persist in open landscapes whose current structure is the result of historical deforestation. We unveiled the roosting and foraging ecology of B. barbastellus in a clay badland area of central Italy where forested habitats are absent and woody vegetation is scarce. Bats in badlands used rock crevices in lieu of the typical maternity tree-roosts and largely foraged in non-forest habitat, alongside riparian vegetation, where they found moth-rich hunting sites. Body condition and sex ratio did not differ from those documented in a source population found in mature forest in the same region. Our study identifies the hitherto overlooked importance of apparently unsuitable landscapes for the conservation of bats regarded as forests specialists and highlights that such environments and the associated occurrence of favoured prey should be carefully considered in management plans.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11588/593695
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