Ground-based and LiDAR-derived measurements reveal scale-dependent selection of roost characteristics by the rare tree-dwelling bat Barbastella barbastellus

Andrew Carr*, Matt Zeale, Andrew Weatherall, Jeremy Froidevaux, Gareth Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

3 Citations (Scopus)
273 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Bats use roosts for protection, sociality and reproduction. Lack of knowledge regarding the specific roost preferences of tree-dwelling bats means that roosts are regularly removed from woodland during felling and thinning interventions, even when woodlands are managed to promote biodiversity. The often-unintentional loss of roosts this way continues to constrain efforts to conserve many rare bat species. We investigated roost selection by the barbastelle Barbastella barbastellus in fragmented oak woodlands in southwest England. Twenty-nine bats were radio tracked to 44 tree roosts between 2007 and 2015. Twenty-four different characteristics of roosts were measured using a combination of ground-based field surveys and airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) imagery, and roost characteristics were compared with those of random trees to determine selection. Bats selected trees in ancient semi-natural broadleaved woodland over other woodland habitat types. Standing dead oak (Quercus spp.), while scarce, was positively selected over other tree types and supported significantly more suitable roost cavities. Roost selection was most strongly influenced by the number of cavities present on a tree and the openness of the canopy around the tree. The height of roost cavities and distance to water were also important features that influenced selection. Pregnant and lactating bats switched roosts less frequently than post-lactating and nulliparous bats and selected cavities higher on trees, most likely to facilitate the development of offspring and reduce the risk of predation. Old growth woodland is vitally important to barbastelles and so the preservation and restoration of these habitats should be a conservation priority. While standing dead trees supported more preferred roost cavities than other tree types, our findings indicate that any tree supporting a suitable cavity may be used as a roost, irrespective of the size, condition or species, and should be retained wherever possible. Promoting the natural succession of younger woodland will help to deliver additional sustained benefits in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-246
Number of pages10
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Volume417
Early online date17 Mar 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2018

Keywords

  • Barbastelle
  • Conservation
  • Radio tracking
  • Roost preferences
  • Tree cavity
  • Woodland

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