Conservation planning with spatially explicit models: a case for horseshoe bats in complex mountain landscapes
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Context Bats are considered as an ecological indicator of habitat quality due to their sensitivity to human-induced ecosystem changes. Hence, we will focus the study on two indicator species of bats as a proxy to evaluate structure and composition of the landscape to analyze anthropic pressures driving changes in patterns.
This study develops a spatially-explicit model to highlight key habitat nodes and corridors which are integral for maintaining functional landscape connectivity for bat movement. We focus on a complex mountain landscape and two bat species: greater (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) and lesser (Rhinolophus hipposideros) horseshoe bats which are known to be sensitive to landscape composition and configuration.
Species distribution models are used to delineate high-quality foraging habitat for each species using opportunistic ultrasonic bat data. We then performed connectivity analysis combining (modelled) suitable foraging habitat and (known) roost sites. We use graph-theory and the deviation in the probability of connectivity to quantify resilience of the landscape connectivity to perturbations.
Both species were confined to lowlands (<1000 m elevation) and avoided areas with high road densities. Greater horseshoe bats were more generalist than lesser horseshoe bats which tended to be associated with broadleaved and mixed forests.
The spatially-explicit models obtained were proven crucial for prioritizing foraging habitats, roost sites and key corridors for conservation. Hence, our results are being used by key stakeholders to help integrate conservation measures into forest management and conservation planning at the regional level. The approach used can be integrated into conservation initiatives elsewhere.
KeywordsSpecies distribution modelling Ensemble modelling Expert based knowledge Landscape connectivity Landscape structure Complex mountain landscapes Greater horseshoe bat Lesser horseshoe bat
This work was partly Funded by the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, France in support of the development of the DEB-MOCHAB project (2013–2015) (Species distribution modelling: a tool for evaluation the conservation of species’ habitats and ecological continuities). We thank the LPO (League for the Protection of Birds), the Departments of Drôme and Isère, France and the National Forest Office for their interest, support, expertise of species ecology and time invested in this project. In particular, we would like to thank Tillon, L., Planckaert, O, Bouix, T and everyone who contributed in the data collection efforts and expertise. Santiago Saura for advice on landscape connectivity analysis. Damien Gorges for his work on Biomod2 package improvement and support. We would like to thank the Editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable and very constructive comments and suggestions that helped improve the manuscript.
This work was also partially supported by the OpenNESS project funded from the European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement n° 308428. The authors are solely responsible for the content of this publication. It does not represent the opinion of the European Union, nor is the European Union responsible for any use that might be made of information appearing herein.
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