Shifts in bat community structure related to evolved traits and features of human-altered landscapes
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- Duchamp, J.E. & Swihart, R.K. Landscape Ecol (2008) 23: 849. doi:10.1007/s10980-008-9241-8
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Population declines for many bat species are associated with rapid, human-induced ecosystem changes. In this context, the available species pool is determined in part by historical adaptation to the native ecosystem, but the resulting community structure may be determined principally by the ability of evolved traits to function in the novel context of a human-dominated ecosystem. To investigate the role of human disturbance as a determinant of bat communities, we surveyed assemblages and species occurrence rates in 27 agriculturally dominated landscapes exhibiting a gradient of human-induced forest fragmentation in Indiana, USA. We used multiple linear regression to explore the relationship of landscape environmental variables to species diversity. We then examined the relationship between community structure, evolved species traits and fragmentation conditions across a landscape using RLQ analysis. Overall, species diversity was positively related to the amount of forest and negatively correlated with amount of urban development in a landscape. We also observed a significant relationship between evolved species traits and landscape-level variables that is consistent with globally anticipated trends for bat species extinction risk. Our findings suggest that responses of bat species to human modification of ecosystems on the scale of a few kilometers could drive distributional dynamics at larger spatial and longer temporal scales.