Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 87–102 | Cite as

Urbanization and the abundance and diversity of Prairie bats

  • Joanna L. ColemanEmail author
  • Robert M. R. Barclay


The effects of urbanization on biodiversity are generally considered to be negative, but the potential for landscape context to modulate these effects has not been adequately examined because most urban ecology research has been conducted in one biome: the temperate forest. This bias also applies to studies of the urban ecology of bats, whose diversity is correlated with habitat heterogeneity. We investigated the hypothesis that in the fairly flat, homogeneous Prairies, urbanization, by creating structurally complex islands, benefits bats by increasing access to the vertical landscape elements (buildings and trees) in which they roost. From 2006 to 2008, we surveyed bat assemblages in and around Calgary, Alberta, using mist nets to capture them and bat detectors to record their echolocation activity. Our data supported the prediction that urbanization increases the abundance of Prairie bats, but not the prediction that it increases their diversity. Instead, the urban bat assemblage was less diverse, and exhibited decreased species evenness compared to non-urban assemblages. Although Myotis lucifugus dominated bat assemblages throughout our study area, this was most evident in the city, and this species drove the increased urban abundance of bats. Ultimately, we reject our hypothesis and conclude that urbanization in the Prairies may create attractive habitat for one synanthropic bat, but is detrimental to others.


Urbanization Chiroptera Abundance Diversity Landscape Grassland 



For invaluable assistance in the field, we thank: N. Boulic, A. Bugajski, A. Goldie, T. Hershon, C. Olson, P. Payette, and especially E. Swerdfeger. Many thanks to C. Lausen for advice and reference calls. This project would not have been possible without the cooperation of government agencies that facilitated access to public lands, including the Government of Alberta (Tourism Parks and Recreation), the City of Calgary and Parks Canada. We also thank the private landowners who not only welcomed us onto their properties, but also showed both hospitality and an interest in bats and our work with them. Funding and materials were provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Killam Trusts, Bat Conservation International, University of Calgary and Canadian Tire.


  1. Agosta SJ (2002) Habitat use, diet and roost selection by the Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus) in North America: a case for conserving an abundant species. Mamm Rev 32:179–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alberta Environmental Protection (1997) 1997 Alberta State of the Environment Report: Terrestrial ecosystems. Alberta Environmental Protection, Edmonton, AlbertaGoogle Scholar
  3. Avila-Flores R, Fenton MB (2005) Use of spatial features by foraging insectivorous bats in a large urban landscape. J Mammal 86:1193–1204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barclay RMR (1989) The effect of reproductive condition on the foraging behavior of female hoary bats, Lasiurus cinereus. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 24:31–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barclay RMR (1993) The biology of Prairie bats, In The 3rd Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Workshop. In Holroyd GL, Dickson HL, Regnier M, Smith HC (eds), Provincial Museum of Alberta, Brandon, Manitoba, pp. 353–357Google Scholar
  6. Barclay RMR, Harder LD (2003) Life histories of bats: life in the slow lane. In: Kunz TH, Fenton MB (eds) Bat ecology. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, pp 209–253Google Scholar
  7. Bate LJ, Wisdom MJ, Wales BC (2007) Snag densities in relation to human access and associated management factors in forests of Northeastern Oregon, USA. Landsc Urban Plann 80:278–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bredt A, Uieda W (1996) Bats from urban and rural environments of the Distrito Federal, mid-western Brazil. Chiroptera Neotropical 2:54–57Google Scholar
  9. Chace JF, Walsh JJ (2006) Urban effects on native avifauna: a review. Landsc Urban Plann 74:46–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Coleman J (2010) The Effects of urbanization on Prairie Bats, In Department of Biological Sciences. p. 206. University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.Google Scholar
  11. Cook WM, Faeth SH (2006) Irrigation and land use drive ground arthropod community patterns in an urban desert. Environ Entomol 35:1532–1540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Corben C (2000) Anamusic WAV File Generation UtilityGoogle Scholar
  13. Corben C (2004) Analook bat call analysis systemGoogle Scholar
  14. Cromartie JB (1998) Net migration in the Great Plains increasingly linked to natural amenities and suburbanization. Rural Dev Perspect 13:27–34Google Scholar
  15. Crooks KR, Soulé ME (1999) Mesopredator release and avifaunal extinctions in a fragmented system. Nature 400:563–566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Czech B, Krausman PR, Devers PK (2000) Economic associations among causes of species endangerment in the United States. Bioscience 50:593–601CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Davis WH, Hitchcock HB (1965) Biology and migration of the bat, Myotis lucifugus, in New England. J Mammal 46:296–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Duchamp JE, Swihart RK (2008) Shifts in bat community structure related to evolved traits and features of human-altered landscapes. Landscape Ecol 23:849–860CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ecological Stratification Working Group (1995) Terrestrial ecozones, ecoregions, and ecodistricts of Canada: Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. A national ecological framework for Canada. Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada, Research Branch Centre for Land and Biological Resources Research and Environment Canada, State of the Environment Directorate, Ecozone Analysis Branch, Ottawa–Hull, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  20. Engqvist L (2005) The mistreatment of covariate interaction terms in linear model analyses of behavioural and evolutionary ecology studies. Anim Behav 70:967–971CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Evelyn MJ, Stiles DA, Young RA (2004) Conservation of bats in suburban landscapes: roost selection by Myotis yumanensis in a residential area in California. Biol Conserv 115:463–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Everette AL, O'Shea TJ, Ellison LE, Stone LA, McCance JL (2001) Bat use of a high-plains urban wildlife refuge. Wildl Soc Bull 29:967–973Google Scholar
  23. Faure PA, Barclay RMR (1994) Substrate-gleaning versus aerial-hawking: plasticity in the foraging and echolocation behaviour of the long-eared bat, Myotis evotis. J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol 174:651–660Google Scholar
  24. Fenton MB (2003) Science and the conservation of bats: where to next? Wildl Soc Bull 31:6–15Google Scholar
  25. Fenton MB, Fleming TH (1976) Ecological interactions between bats and nocturnal birds. Biotropica 8:104–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fischer J, Stott J, Law BS, Adams MD, Forrester RI (2009) Designing effective habitat studies: quantifying multiple sources of variability in bat activity. Acta Chiropterologica 11:127–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Forman RTT, Alexander LE (1998) Roads and their major ecological effects. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 29:207–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gaisler J, Zukal J, Rehak Z, Homolka M (1998) Habitat preference and flight activity of bats in a city. J Zool, London 244:439–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Garden J, McAlpine C, Peterson ANN, Jones D, Possingham H (2006) Review of the ecology of Australian urban fauna: a focus on spatially explicit processes. Austral Ecology 31:126–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gauthier DA, Wiken EB (2003) Monitoring the conservation of grassland habitats, prairie ecozone, Canada. Environ Monit Assess 88:343–364PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Geggie JF, Fenton MB (1985) A comparison of foraging by Eptesicus fuscus (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae) in urban and rural environments. Can J Zool 63:263–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gehrt SD, Chelsvig JE (2003) Bat activity in an urban landscape: patterns at the landscape and microhabitat scale. Ecol Appl 13:939–950CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gehrt SD, Chelsvig JE (2004) Species-specific patterns of bat activity in an urban landscape. Ecol Appl 14:625–635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ghitter G, Smart A (2009) Mad cows, regional governance, and urban sprawl: path dependence and unintended consequences in the Calgary Region. Urban Aff Rev 44:617–644CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hayes JP (1997) Temporal variation in activity of bats and the design of echolocation-monitoring studies. J Mammal 78:514–524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Holloway GL, Barclay RMR (2000) Importance of prairie riparian zones to bats in southeastern Alberta. Ecoscience 7:115–122Google Scholar
  37. Holloway GL, Barclay RMR (2001) Myotis ciliolabrum. Mammalian Species 670:1–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hourigan CL, Johnson C, Robson SKA (2006) The structure of a micro-bat community in relation to gradients of environmental variation in a tropical urban area. Urban Ecosyst 9:67–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Humphrey SR (1975) Nursery roosts and community diversity of Nearctic bats. J Mammal 56:321–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Johnson JB, Gates JE, Ford WM (2008) Distribution and activity of bats at local and landscape scales within a rural–urban gradient. Urban Ecosyst 11:227–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Jones RC, Clark CC (1987) Impact of watershed urbanization on stream insect communities. J Am Water Resour Assoc 23:1047–1055CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kalcounis-Rueppell MC, Payne VH, Huff SR, Boyko AL (2007) Effects of wastewater treatment plant effluent on bat foraging ecology in an urban stream system. Biol Conserv 138:120–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kirsten I, Klomp NI (1998) Microchiroptera in urban, rural and forest areas of southern NSW. Australas Bat Soc Newsl 11:28–31Google Scholar
  44. Kunz TH (1973) Resource utilization: temporal and spatial components of bat activity in central Iowa. J Mammal 54:14–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kunz TH, Fenton MB (2003) Bat ecology. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  46. Kunz TH, Hodgkison R, Weise CD (2009) Methods of capturing and handling bats. In: Kunz TH, Parsons S (eds) Ecological and behavioral methods for the study of bats, 2nd edn. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp 3–35Google Scholar
  47. Kurta A, Teramino JA (1992) Bat community structure in an urban park. Ecography 15:257–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lac S, Colan C (2004) South Saskatchewan river basin biogeography. University of Regina, Regina, SKGoogle Scholar
  49. Larson DJ, Hayes JP (2000) Variability in sensitivity of Anabat II bat detectors and a method of calibration. Acta Chiropterologica 2:209–213Google Scholar
  50. Lauriault J (1989) Identification guide to the trees of Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  51. Lemmen DS, Vance RE, Wolfe SA, Last WM (1997) Impacts of future climate change on the southern Canadian Prairies: a paleoenvironmental perspective. Geosci Can 24:121–133Google Scholar
  52. Loeb SC, Post CJ, Hall ST (2009) Relationship between urbanization and bat community structure in national parks of the southeastern U.S. Urban Ecosyst 12:197–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Mackey RL, Currie DJ (2001) The diversity-disturbance relationship: is it generally strong and peaked? Ecology 82:3479–3492Google Scholar
  54. Magurran AE (2004) Measuring biological diversity, 2nd edn. Blackwell Science Ltd., OxfordGoogle Scholar
  55. Marzluff JM, Ewing K (2001) Restoration of fragmented landscapes for the conservation of birds: a general framework and specific recommendations for urbanizing landscapes. Restor Ecol 9:280–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. McIntyre S, Hobbs R (1999) A framework for conceptualizing human effects on landscapes and its relevance to management and research models. Conserv Biol 13:1282–1292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. McKinney ML (2002) Urbanization, biodiversity, and conservation. Bioscience 52:883–890CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. McKinney ML (2006) Urbanization as a major cause of biotic homogenization. Biol Conserv 127:247–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Moss EH (1932) The vegetation of Alberta: IV. The poplar association and related vegetation of central Alberta. J Ecol 20:380–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Niemelä J (1999) Is there a need for a theory of urban ecology? Urban Ecosyst 3:57–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Norberg UM, Rayner JMV (1987) Ecological morphology and flight in bats (Mammalia; Chiroptera): wing adaptations, flight performance, foraging strategy and echolocation. Phil Trans Roy Soc Lond B Biol Sci 316:335–427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Ober HK, Hayes JP (2008) Prey selection by bats in forests of western Oregon. J Mammal 89:1191–1200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Ormsbee PC, McComb WC (1998) Selection of day roosts by female long-legged Myotis in the central Oregon Cascade Range. J Wildl Manage 62:596–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Potere D, Schneider A, Angel S, Civco DL (2009) Mapping urban areas on a global scale: which of the eight maps now available is more accurate? Int J Remote Sens 30:6531–6558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Racey PA, Entwistle AC (2003) Conservation Ecology of Bats. In: Kunz TH, Fenton MB (eds) Bat ecology. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 680–743Google Scholar
  66. Rainho A (2007) Summer foraging habitats of bats in a Mediterranean region of the Iberian Peninsula. Acta Chiropterologica 9:171–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Richards GC (2001) Towards defining adequate bat survey methodology: why electronic call detection is essential throughout the night. Australas Bat Soc Newsl 16:24–28Google Scholar
  68. Samson F, Knopf F (1994) Prairie conservation in North America. Bioscience 44:418–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Schaub A, Ostwald J, Siemers BM (2008) Foraging bats avoid noise. J Exp Biol 211:3174–3180PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Seaby RM, Henderson PA (2006) Species diversity and richness. Pisces Conservation Ltd., LymingtonGoogle Scholar
  71. Shochat E, Warren PS, Faeth SH, McIntyre NE, Hope D (2006) From patterns to emerging processes in mechanistic urban ecology. Trends Ecol Evol 21:186–191PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Solick DI, Barclay RMR (2006) Morphological differences among western long-eared myotis (Myotis evotis) populations in different environments. J Mammal 87:1020–1026CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Solick DI, Barclay RMR (2007) Geographic variation in the use of torpor and roosting behaviour of female western long-eared bats. J Zool 272:358–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Solow AR (1993) A simple test for change in community structure. J Anim Ecol 62:191–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sparks DW, Laborda JA Jr, Whitaker JO (1998) Bats of the Indianapolis International Airport as compared to a more rural community of bats at Prairie Creek. Proc Indiana Acad Sci 107:171–179Google Scholar
  76. Statistics Canada (2007) Population and dwelling counts, for census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations, 2006 and 2001 censuses—100% dataGoogle Scholar
  77. Sun H, Forsythe W, Waters N (2007) Modeling urban land use change and urban sprawl: Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Network Spatial Econ 7:353–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Thomas DW (1988) The distribution of bats in different ages of Douglas-fir forests. J Wildl Manage 52:619–626CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Thomas DW, LaVal RK (1988) Survey and census methods. In: Kunz TH (ed) Ecological and behavioral methods for the study of bats. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, pp 77–89Google Scholar
  80. Ticer CL, Ockenfels RA, Devos JC, Morrell TE (1998) Habitat use and activity patterns of urban-dwelling javelina. Urban Ecosyst 2:141–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. United Nations (2008) World Urbanization Prospects: The 2007 Revision Highlights. United Nations Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  82. van der Ree R, McCarthy MA (2005) Inferring persistence of indigenous mammals in response to urbanisation. Anim Conserv 8:309–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Vaughan N, Jones G, Harris S (1997) Habitat use by bats (Chiroptera) assessed by means of a broad-band acoustic method. J Appl Ecol 34:716–730CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Vujnovic K, Wein RW, Dale MRT (2002) Predicting plant species diversity in response to disturbance magnitude in grassland remnants of central Alberta. Can J Bot 80:504–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Walsh AL, Harris S (1996a) Factors determining the abundance of vespertilionid bats in Britain: geographical, land class and local habitat relationships. J Appl Ecol 33:519–529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Walsh AL, Harris S (1996b) Foraging habitat preferences of vespertilionid bats in Britain. J Appl Ecol 33:508–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Wickett SM (1900) City government in Canada. Polit Sci Q 15:240–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Willis CKR, Brigham RM (2005) Physiological and ecological aspects of roost selection by reproductive female hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus). J Mammal 86:85–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

Personalised recommendations