Journal Article


Claire F R WordleyMahesh SankaranDivya MudappaJohn D Altringham
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Landscape scale habitat suitability modelling of bats in the Western Ghats of India:Bats like something in their tea

To conserve biodiversity it is imperative that we understand how different species respond to land use change,and determine the scales at which habitat changes affect species' persistence. We used habitat suitability models(HSMs) at spatial scales from 100–4000 m to address these concerns for bats in the Western Ghats of India, abiodiversity hotspot of global importance where the habitat requirements of bats are poorly understood. Weused acoustic and capture data to build fine scale HSMs for ten species (Hesperoptenus tickelli, Miniopterusfuliginosus, Miniopterus pusillus, Myotis horsfieldii, Pipistrellus ceylonicus, Megaderma spasma, Hipposiderospomona, Rhinolophus beddomei, Rhinolophus indorouxii and Rhinolophus lepidus) in a tea-dominated landscape.Small (100–500 m) scale habitat variables (e.g. percentage tea plantation cover) and distances to habitat features(e.g. distance to water) were the strongest predictors of bat occurrence, likely due to their high mobility, whichenables them to exploit even small or isolated foraging areas. Most species showed a positive response to coffeeplantations grown under native shade and to forest fragments, but a negative response to more heavily modifiedtea plantations. Two species were never recorded in tea plantations. This is the first study of bats in tea planta-tions globally, and the first ecological Old World bat study to combine acoustic and capture data. Our resultssuggest that although bats respond negatively to tea plantations, tea-dominated landscapes that also containforest fragments and shade coffee can nevertheless support many bat species.

Biological Conservation 191: 529-536.