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Patch or mosaic: bat activity responds to fine-scale urban heterogeneity in a medium-sized city in the United States

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Many recent studies have suggested that cities are spatially heterogeneous. Only limited research has investigated whether urban heterogeneity influences the distribution of bats in a city. Between 2010 and 2012, we acoustically surveyed bats in Waco, Texas, a medium-sized city in the United States. Seven species were detected, five in adequate quantity for analyses. Three distinct distribution patterns were evident (Mexican free-tailed bats; red bats and evening bats; big brown bats and cave myotis), reflecting the distinct functional guilds of these species. Bayesian conditional autoregressive models indicated that tree-dwelling red bats and evening bats were influenced by variables describing heterogeneity of urban vegetation. Big brown bats and cave myotis were associated with variables related to water sources. Mexican free-tailed bat distribution could be explained well by variables related to urban buildings and other constructions. Our modeling also suggested that urban socioeconomic heterogeneity influenced bat distributions. Distributions of tree-dwelling bats corresponded to income level. Distributions of Mexican free-tailed bats, big brown bats, and cave myotis related to human density. These results support the idea that a city comprises a mosaic of habitats as perceived by various species of bats and likely by other species of wildlife in urban settings.

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We extend our thanks to colleagues and students at Baylor University who assisted in this research: Anica Debelica-Lee, Dr. Nick Green, and Dr. Thomas Pettit for constructing the bat echolocation library; Jonathan Cook for assistance with GIS techniques; Dr. Kevin Gutzwiller, Dr. David Kahle, and Tracy Pinney for discussion and advice regarding statistical analyses; Kevin Chen, Frany Dadhania, Therese Gavin, Vicky Ho, Robin Vander Pol, Kristine Williams, and Lucinda Yu for field assistance; Dr. Robert Doyle, chair of Baylor Biology Department; and the Graduate School and Glasscock Research Fund of Baylor University for financial support.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Han Li.

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Li, H., Wilkins, K.T. Patch or mosaic: bat activity responds to fine-scale urban heterogeneity in a medium-sized city in the United States. Urban Ecosyst 17, 1013–1031 (2014).

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