Artificial light at night (ALAN) is a pervasive form of pollution largely affecting wildlife, from individual behaviour to community structure and dynamics. As nocturnal mammals, bats are often adversely affected by ALAN, yet some "light-opportunistic" species exploit it by hunting insects swarming near lights. Here we used two potentially competing pipistrelle species as models, Kuhl's (Pipistrellus kuhlii) and common (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) pipistrelles, both known to forage in artificially illuminated areas. We set our study in a mountainous area of central Italy, where only recently did the two species become syntopic. We applied spatial modelling and radiotracking to contrast potential vs. actual environmental preferences by the two pipistrelles. Species distribution models and niche analysis showed a large interspecific niche overlap, including a preference for illuminated areas, presenting a potential competition scenario. Pipistrellus pipistrellus association with ALAN, however, was weakened by adding P. kuhlii as a biotic variable to the model. Radiotracking showed that the two species segregated habitats at a small spatial scale and that P. kuhlii used artificially illuminated sites much more frequently than P. pipistrellus, despite both species potentially being streetlamp foragers. We demonstrate that ALAN influences niche segregation between two potentially competing species, confirming its pervasive effects on species and community dynamics, and provide an example of how light pollution and species' habitat preferences may weave a tapestry of complex ecological interactions.

Artificial illumination influences niche segregation in bats

Ancillotto, Leonardo;Cistrone, Luca;Bosso, Luciano;Smeraldo, Sonia;Russo, Danilo
2021

Abstract

Artificial light at night (ALAN) is a pervasive form of pollution largely affecting wildlife, from individual behaviour to community structure and dynamics. As nocturnal mammals, bats are often adversely affected by ALAN, yet some "light-opportunistic" species exploit it by hunting insects swarming near lights. Here we used two potentially competing pipistrelle species as models, Kuhl's (Pipistrellus kuhlii) and common (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) pipistrelles, both known to forage in artificially illuminated areas. We set our study in a mountainous area of central Italy, where only recently did the two species become syntopic. We applied spatial modelling and radiotracking to contrast potential vs. actual environmental preferences by the two pipistrelles. Species distribution models and niche analysis showed a large interspecific niche overlap, including a preference for illuminated areas, presenting a potential competition scenario. Pipistrellus pipistrellus association with ALAN, however, was weakened by adding P. kuhlii as a biotic variable to the model. Radiotracking showed that the two species segregated habitats at a small spatial scale and that P. kuhlii used artificially illuminated sites much more frequently than P. pipistrellus, despite both species potentially being streetlamp foragers. We demonstrate that ALAN influences niche segregation between two potentially competing species, confirming its pervasive effects on species and community dynamics, and provide an example of how light pollution and species' habitat preferences may weave a tapestry of complex ecological interactions.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11588/889545
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