Managing anthropogenic driven range expansion behaviourally: Mediterranean bats in desert ecosystems
Bat abundance and activity in deserts is affected by the distribution of water sources. Kuhl’s pipistrelle (Pipistrellus kuhlii) is one of several bat species that penetrated the Negev desert from Mediterranean habitats following anthropogenic development, and potentially competes with desert dwelling bats of the same guild. Pipistrellus kuhlii is an obligate drinker requiring a clear ‘swoop zone’ to drink. Thus, to reduce the competitive load that P. kuhlii has on desert dwelling species, we tested the effectiveness of obstructions above water surfaces, which we hypothesised would reduce the drinking ability of P. kuhlii, thus providing desert species a competitive edge. We obstructed the water surface of a swimming pool and successfully prevented P. kuhlii from drinking. Next, we manipulated natural water sources used by bats for foraging. This was done on two spatial and temporal scales: on 11 adjacent ephemeral water pools in Nahal Zin where each treatment was applied for several nights and on eight isolated natural pools in the Negev where treatments were alternated every 20 min. Manipulation of adjacent pools had no effect on activity levels of bats, but in isolated pools, the obstruction reduced the proportion of P. kuhlii activity by up to 15%. Although this tool cannot be used for management without further examination of its long-term effects on other bats and wildlife, this study does demonstrate its feasibility. Conservation schemes aiming to mitigate effects of undesirable species can be designed by identifying ecological differences between competing species, and manipulating the environment accordingly.
KeywordsCompetition Conservation Insectivorous bats Mitigation Range expansion Water
Field work was carried out with the help of many friends including K. Edwards and B. Evans from the University of Bristol, UK. We thank N. Werner and U. Shanas for lending us the equipment. This research was done under permit 34613 from the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority (INPA). We also acknowledge the INPA for the assistance and advice of their rangers and professional staff. This research was funded through grants from Ben-Gurion University Seed Money to C.K and D.S and the Ministry of Technology and Science to C.K. This is publication no. 963 of the Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and animal welfare
All applicable international, national and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed as stated in research permit 34613 from the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority. The field experiments were conducted under licence 34615 given to CK by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and under the permit BGU-R-2009 to CK from BGU Committee for the Ethical Care and Use of Animals in Experiments. This includes careful choice of study sites to avoid manipulating sensitive water sources that would make water entirely unavailable to wildlife. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.
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