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Habitat Associations of Bats in an Agricultural Landscape: Linear Features Versus Open Habitats

Animals

Abstract

Simple Summary Understanding how species interact with agricultural landscapes is essential for future conservation efforts. Using a large-scale citizen science project, we examined the influence linear features have on bat activity compared to the centre of agricultural fields and detailed the effect of different types of linear features (intensively managed hedgerows, sympathetically managed hedgerows and treelines). Our results showed that all 10 bat species groups identified during surveys occurred both in the centre of fields as well as along linear features. Out of the five species groups analysed further, only Nyctalus noctula had no preference for linear features, compared to the centre of agricultural fields; however, 29% of Rhinolophus ferrumequinum calls were recorded in the centre of fields. More species were active near treelines compared to other linear feature types. Our results highlight the importance of linear feature management to bat conservation, but also the need to consider field centres during survey design and Environmental Impact Assessments 1. Bats are important components of agricultural ecosystems. However, little is known about the extent to which bats use linear features when foraging and commuting in agricultural settings, when compared to the interior of fields. 2. As part of a large-scale citizen science project, bat detectors were placed in the centre of agricultural fields (arable and pasture) and along linear features (intensively managed hedgerows, sympathetically managed hedgerows and treelines). 3. Our results show that all 10 of the bat species groups identified were found both along linear features and in the middle of agricultural fields. Of the five species groups analysed further, all had significantly more bat activity along linear features compared to the middle of fields, except for Nyctalus noctula. However, our results showed that 29% of calls from Rhinolophus ferrumequinum were recorded in the middle of agricultural fields, compared to only 10% for Pipistrellus pipistrellus. Bat activity was more likely to be associated with treelines compared to other linear feature types. 4. Our results highlight the importance of linear feature management to bat conservation, but also the need to consider field centres during survey design and Environmental Impact Assessments.

Author(s): Finch, D; Schofield, H; Mathews, F

Journal: Animals

Year: 2020

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