Urban forest preserves local bat species diversity, but not forest dweller specialists—renewed study 65 years later (Kharkiv city, Ukraine)

Abstract

Most studies in urban areas focus on green areas within a city given their high value for biodiversity. However, very few have investigated the impact of urbanization on urban green areas at the fringe of cities, as well as long-term data to gather temporal changes. Bats are an interesting taxon to study the impact of urbanization on biodiversity given their species-specific responses to environmental changes. We describe how bat assemblages changed over 65 years in the Kharkiv city Forest-Park (KhPF), Ukraine. During the first survey period (1935–1948), seven bat species were recorded in the KhFP with breeding records from four forest-dwelling species. During the second survey period (2010–2014) besides these seven species, four new were found (species from the water-associated and urban dweller ecological groups). In the second period, one forest-dwelling specialist has gone extinct from this area (Nyctalus lasiopterus), and for another species (Nyctalus leisleri), there was no evidence of breeding. Our results suggest that the transformation of the area around the KhFP has benefits for urban dwellers, water-associated, and generalist bats, but not for forest-dwelling specialists, with increased anthropogenic activities since 1940s (i.e., increase of woodlands + 31%, water bodies + 119%, and built-up structures + 534%). Hence, while natural landscapes are lost, new types of heterogeneous landscapes can be established which influences bat assemblages. Nevertheless, we suppose that KhFP has lost its specific woodstand quality (amount of dead and decaying trees) for the last 65–70 years and was affected by different kinds of pollutants that had a negative impact on forest-dwelling bat specialists.

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Data availability

Raw data partly presented in Supplementary and the full dataset are available from the author upon request.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Olena Rodenko, Hanna Suvorova, Oleksii Parfilov, Dr. Tatiana Kalchenko, Maria Sudakova, Yuliya Filatova, Kiryl Popryhun, Oksana Zlenko, Volodymyr Shuvaev, Dr. Alexander Naglov, Dr. Stanislav Viter, Volodymyr Harkavenko, Olexander Klochko, Anastasia Chepizhnaya, Svetlana, and Dmitry Kononenko for field assistance in this study. We are very grateful to Dr Tony Mitchell-Jones for important comments about the manuscript and correction of the English language.

Funding

This research was conducted by support of the Rufford Foundation (UK) project: 8188–1 “Nyctalus lasiopterus in Ukraine: inventory of current status, proposals to revise the species status in IUCN Red List and conservation” and the Bat Conservation International (USA) project: “Bat Migration and Development of Wind Energy in Ukraine.” The Bat Rehabilitation Center of Feldman Ecopark has been funding the International Charitable Foundation “Oleksandr Feldman Foundation”.

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AV, YY, VH, AP, and KK carried out the fieldwork and designed the study; AV performed the data analyses, KK the statistical analyses, and YY the GIS analyses and maps creation. AV, KK, TS, and YY wrote the manuscript. All authors provided comments, agreed to be held accountable for the content herein, and approved the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Anton Vlaschenko.

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Vlaschenko, A., Yatsiuk, Y., Hukov, V. et al. Urban forest preserves local bat species diversity, but not forest dweller specialists—renewed study 65 years later (Kharkiv city, Ukraine) . Mamm Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13364-021-00580-9

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Keywords

  • Bats
  • Chiroptera
  • Forest-dwelling species
  • Ukraine
  • Urbanization
  • Urban oak forest