Habitat selection of three cryptic Plecotus bat species in the European Alps reveals contrasting implications for conservation

Ashrafi, Sohrab; Rutishauser, Marianne; Ecker, Klaus; Obrist, Martin K.; Arlettaz, Raphaël; Bontadina, Fabio (2013). Habitat selection of three cryptic Plecotus bat species in the European Alps reveals contrasting implications for conservation. Biodiversity and conservation, 22(12), pp. 2751-2766. Springer Netherlands 10.1007/s10531-013-0551-z

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Assessing the ecological requirements of species coexisting within a community is an essential requisite for developing sound conservation action. A particularly interesting question is what mechanisms govern the stable coexistence of cryptic species within a community, i.e. species that are almost impossible to distinguish. Resource partitioning theory predicts that cryptic species, like other sympatric taxa, will occupy distinct ecological niches. This prediction is widely inferred from eco-morphological studies. A new cryptic long-eared bat species, Plecotus macrobullaris, has been recently discovered in the complex of two other species present in the European Alps, with even evidence for a few mixed colonies. This discovery poses challenges to bat ecologists concerned with planning conservation measures beyond roost protection. We therefore tested whether foraging habitat segregation occurred among the three cryptic Plecotus bat species in Switzerland by radiotracking 24 breeding female bats (8 of each species). We compared habitat features at locations visited by a bat versus random locations within individual home ranges, applying mixed effects logistic regression. Distinct, species-specific habitat preferences were revealed. P. auritus foraged mostly within traditional orchards in roost vicinity, with a marked preference for habitat heterogeneity. P. austriacus foraged up to 4.7 km from the roost, selecting mostly fruit tree plantations, hedges and tree lines. P. macrobullaris preferred patchy deciduous and mixed forests with high vertical heterogeneity in a grassland dominated-matrix. These species-specific habitat preferences should inform future conservation programmes. They highlight the possible need of distinct conservation measures for species that look very much alike.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Conservation Biology

UniBE Contributor:

Ashrafi, Sohrab; Rutishauser, Marianne; Arlettaz, Raphaël and Bontadina, Fabio

Subjects:

500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)

ISSN:

0960-3115

Publisher:

Springer Netherlands

Language:

English

Submitter:

Olivier Roth

Date Deposited:

28 Apr 2014 09:48

Last Modified:

01 Nov 2018 02:32

Publisher DOI:

10.1007/s10531-013-0551-z

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.43058

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/43058

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