Movement responses of common noctule bats to the illuminated urban landscape

Abstract

Context

Cities are a challenging habitat for obligate nocturnal mammals because of the ubiquitous use of artificial light at night (ALAN). How nocturnal animals move in an urban landscape, particularly in response to ALAN is largely unknown.

Objectives

We studied the movement responses, foraging and commuting, of common noctules (Nyctalus noctula) to urban landscape features in general and ALAN in particular.

Methods

We equipped 20 bats with miniaturized GPS loggers in the Berlin metropolitan area and related spatial positions of bats to anthropogenic and natural landscape features and levels of ALAN.

Results

Common noctules foraged close to ALAN only next to bodies of water or well vegetated areas, probably to exploit swarms of insects lured by street lights. In contrast, they avoided illuminated roads, irrespective of vegetation cover nearby. Predictive maps identified most of the metropolitan area as non-favoured by this species because of high levels of impervious surfaces and ALAN. Dark corridors were used by common noctules for commuting and thus likely improved the permeability of the city landscape.

Conclusions

We conclude that the spatial use of common noctules, previously considered to be more tolerant to light than other bats, is largely constrained by ALAN. Our study is the first individual-based GPS tracking study to show sensitive responses of nocturnal wildlife to light pollution. Approaches to protect urban biodiversity need to include ALAN to safeguard the larger network of dark habitats for bats and other nocturnal species in cities.

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Data availability

Data will be made available on dryad data repository.

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Acknowledgements

The work was partly funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research BMBF within the Collaborative Project Bridging in Biodiversity Science-BIBS (Funding No. 01LC1501A-H).

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CCV conceived the study. CCV, YY and SKS ensured funding and designed methodology. JMS, JB, TT and CCV conducted field work. JMS, JB, SKS and PG analysed the data. CCV, JMS, JB and PG wrote the draft manuscript and all authors commented on it.

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Correspondence to Christian C. Voigt.

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Voigt, C.C., Scholl, J.M., Bauer, J. et al. Movement responses of common noctule bats to the illuminated urban landscape. Landscape Ecol 35, 189–201 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-019-00942-4

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Keywords

  • Urbanization
  • GPS tracking
  • Artificial light at night
  • ALAN
  • Habitat use
  • Preference
  • Movement
  • Common noctule bat