Landscape connectivity, habitat structure and activity of bat guilds in farmland-dominated matrices

Frey-Ehrenbold, Annie; Bontadina, Fabio; Arlettaz, Raphaël; Obrist, Martin K. (2013). Landscape connectivity, habitat structure and activity of bat guilds in farmland-dominated matrices. Journal of Applied Ecology, 50(1), pp. 252-261. Blackwell Scientific Publications 10.1111/1365-2664.12034

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Agricultural intensification has caused a decline in structural elements in European farmland, where natural habitats are increasingly fragmented. The loss of habitat structures has a detrimental effect on biodiversity and affects bat species that depend on vegetation structures for foraging and commuting. We investigated the impact of connectivity and configuration of structural landscape elements on flight activity, species richness and diversity of insectivorous bats and distinguished three bat guilds according to species-specific bioacoustic characteristics. We tested whether bats with shorter-range echolocation were more sensitive to habitat fragmentation than bats with longer-range echolocation. We expected to find different connectivity thresholds for the three guilds and hypothesized that bats prefer linear over patchy landscape elements. Bat activity was quantified using repeated acoustic monitoring in 225 locations at 15 study plots distributed across the Swiss Central Plateau, where connectivity and the shape of landscape elements were determined by spatial analysis (GIS). Spectrograms of bat calls were assigned to species with the software batit by means of image recognition and statistical classification algorithms. Bat activity was significantly higher around landscape elements compared to open control areas. Short- and long-range echolocating bats were more active in well-connected landscapes, but optimal connectivity levels differed between the guilds. Species richness increased significantly with connectivity, while species diversity did not (Shannon's diversity index). Total bat activity was unaffected by the shape of landscape elements. Synthesis and applications. This study highlights the importance of connectivity in farmland landscapes for bats, with shorter-range echolocating bats being particularly sensitive to habitat fragmentation. More structurally diverse landscape elements are likely to reduce population declines of bats and could improve conditions for other declining species, including birds. Activity was highest around optimal values of connectivity, which must be evaluated for the different guilds and spatially targeted for a region's habitat configuration. In a multi-species approach, we recommend the reintroduction of structural elements to increase habitat heterogeneity should become part of agri-environment schemes.

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

UniBE Contributor:

Bontadina, Fabio and Arlettaz, Raphaël

Subjects:

500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics

ISSN:

0021-8901

Publisher:

Blackwell Scientific Publications

Language:

English

Submitter:

Olivier Roth

Date Deposited:

02 Apr 2014 10:05

Last Modified:

23 Oct 2015 16:30

Publisher DOI:

10.1111/1365-2664.12034

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.43161

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/43161

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