Urban bat communities are affected by wetland size, quality, and pollution levels

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Authors Tanja M. Straka, Pia Eloise Lentini, Linda F. Lumsden, Brendan A Wintle, Rodney van der Ree
Journal/Conference Name Ecology and evolution
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Wetlands support unique biota and provide important ecosystem services. These services are highly threatened due to the rate of loss and relative rarity of wetlands in most landscapes, an issue that is exacerbated in highly modified urban environments. Despite this, critical ecological knowledge is currently lacking for many wetland-dependent taxa, such as insectivorous bats, which can persist in urban areas if their habitats are managed appropriately. Here, we use a novel paired landscape approach to investigate the role of wetlands in urban bat conservation and examine local and landscape factors driving bat species richness and activity. We acoustically monitored bat activity at 58 urban wetlands and 35 nonwetland sites (ecologically similar sites without free-standing water) in the greater Melbourne area, southeastern Australia. We analyzed bat species richness and activity patterns using generalized linear mixed-effects models. We found that the presence of water in urban Melbourne was an important driver of bat species richness and activity at a landscape scale. Increasing distance to bushland and increasing levels of heavy metal pollution within the waterbody also negatively influenced bat richness and individual species activity. Areas with high levels of artificial night light had reduced bat species richness, and reduced activity for all species except those adapted to urban areas, such as the White-striped free-tailed bat (Austronomus australis). Increased surrounding tree cover and wetland size had a positive effect on bat species richness. Our findings indicate that wetlands form critical habitats for insectivorous bats in urban environments. Large, unlit, and unpolluted wetlands flanked by high tree cover in close proximity to bushland contribute most to the richness of the bat community. Our findings clarify the role of wetlands for insectivorous bats in urban areas and will also allow for the preservation, construction, and management of wetlands that maximize conservation outcomes for urban bats and possibly other wetland-dependent and nocturnal fauna.
Date of publication 2016
Code Programming Language R
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