Although spatial scale is important for understanding ecological processes and guiding conservation planning, studies combining a range of scales are rare. Habitat suitability modelling has been used traditionally to study broad-scale patterns of species distribution but can also be applied to address conservation needs at finer scales. We studied the ability of presence-only species distribution modelling to predict patterns of habitat selection at broad and fine spatial scales for one of the rarest mammals in the UK, the grey long-eared bat (Plecotus austriacus). Models were constructed with Maxent using broad-scale distribution data from across the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) and fine-scale radio-tracking data from bats at one colony. Fine-scale model predictions were evaluated with radio-tracking locations from bats from a distant colony, and compared with results of traditional radio-tracking data analysis methods (compositional analysis of habitat selection). Broad-scale models indicated that winter temperature, summer precipitation and land cover were the most important variables limiting the distribution of the grey long-eared bat in the UK. Fine-scale models predicted that proximity to unimproved grasslands and distance to suburban areas determine foraging habitat suitability around maternity colonies, while compositional analysis also identified unimproved grasslands as the most preferred foraging habitat type. This strong association with unimproved lowland grasslands highlights the potential importance of changes in agricultural practices in the past century for wildlife conservation. Hence, multi-scale models offer an important tool for identifying conservation requirements at the fine landscape level that can guide national-level conservation management practices.
|Translated title of the contribution||Using multi-scale modelling to predict habitat suitability for species of conservation concern: The grey long-eared bat as a case study|
|Pages (from-to)||2922 - 2930|
|Publication status||Published - Dec 2011|