Shade cacao plantations (Theobroma cacao) and bat conservation in southern Bahia, Brazil
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Nearly 40% of the remaining Atlantic Forest in southern Bahia state, Brazil, is a rustic agroforest of cacao (Theobroma cacao). These traditional shade plantations, locally known as ‘cabrucas’, are habitats for forest dwelling species. Here we investigated the potential role of this traditional crop as a support for bat assemblages in southern Bahia, establishing the extent to which the bat community structure found in this agricultural system is influenced by the proximity of forest tracts. We compared the bat community attributes (richness, diversity and dominance) and species-level response (capture frequency) between native forest tracts and shade cacao plantations located in two distinct landscapes, which varied in total amount of forest (patch sizes and total forested area) and in their proximity to forest tracts. The cabrucas contiguous to forest tracts showed a rich and abundant bat community, with samples showing capture rates, species richness, diversity and evenness significantly higher than those reported for forest tracts. This situation changes, however, when shade plantations are located at some distance from forest tracts ( > 1000 m). Bat communities in these isolated cabrucas are less diverse than those found in forests and nearby cabrucas, but in both cases, species usually associated with pristine habitats were found. These findings suggest that cabrucas per se are not forest surrogates, and their potential to harbor forest dwelling bat species is closely linked with the existence of nearby forest tracts that may act as a source for species populations. Therefore, the entire landscape should be considered for management, taking into account that maintenance of cabrucas together with the preservation and restoration of forest patches is probably direly needed if one wishes to conserve the bat diversity in southern Bahia for the long term.
KeywordsAgroforest Atlantic Forest Bats Brazil Neotropics Shade cacao plantations
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