Roost selection and switching in two forest-dwelling bats: implications for forest management

Abstract

The structure of woodland bat communities is influenced by numerous environmental factors, and amongst these, the availability of suitable roosts is of prime importance. Temperate zone forest-dwelling bats use a great variety of roost types, ranging from natural tree cavities to human-made shelters. Given the frequent habit of forest bats to switch roosts, even within the reproductive season, bat-friendly forest management requires information about the number of cavities necessary to maintain populations. We identified the rate of roost switching, number of roosts used and site characteristics of two forest bat species at risk, the Bechstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii) and the Barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus) in suburban forests of SW Switzerland. Radio tracking of 9 M. bechsteinii females showed that a colony used at least 15 roost sites in an area of 3 km2 throughout the reproductive season. B. barbastellus used at least 11 roost sites located in France in two areas 15 km from each other. This illustrates the borderless nature of bat conservation and calls for the maintenance of a trans-frontier cooperation programme. There were clear species-specific roost preferences: M. bechsteinii used tree cavities whereas B. barbastellus used exclusively human-made shelters. These results provide some preliminary guidance for bat-friendly forest management.

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Acknowledgments

We thank C. Rochet, D. Kuhnert, G. Schaub and F. Russier for their help in the field and D. Russo for the helpful comments on the manuscript. ‘Les services de la Faune et de la Pêche de Genève’, especially G. Dändliker has funded part of the study. Thanks also to T. Jenkins for the English corrections.

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Correspondence to P. Christe.

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Kühnert, E., Schönbächler, C., Arlettaz, R. et al. Roost selection and switching in two forest-dwelling bats: implications for forest management. Eur J Wildl Res 62, 497–500 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-016-1021-1

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Keywords

  • Bechstein’s bat
  • Barbastelle bat
  • Roost preferences
  • Commuting
  • Radio tracking
  • Forest management