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Data from: Insectivorous bats respond to vegetation complexity in urban green spaces

Cite this dataset

Suarez-Rubio, Marcela; Ille, Christina; Bruckner, Alexander (2018). Data from: Insectivorous bats respond to vegetation complexity in urban green spaces [Dataset]. Dryad.


Structural complexity is known to determine habitat quality for insectivorous bats, but how bats respond to habitat complexity in highly modified areas such as urban green spaces has been little explored. Furthermore, it is uncertain whether a recently developed measure of structural complexity is as effective as field-based surveys when applied to urban environments. We assessed whether image-derived structural complexity (MIG) was as/more effective than field-based descriptors in this environment, and evaluated the response of insectivorous bats to structural complexity in urban green spaces. Bat activity and species richness were assessed with ultrasonic devices at 180 locations within green spaces in Vienna, Austria. Vegetation complexity was assessed using 17 field-based descriptors and by calculating the mean information gain (MIG) using digital images. Total bat activity and species richness decreased with increasing structural complexity of canopy cover, suggesting maneuverability and echolocation (sensorial) challenges for bat species using the canopy for flight and foraging. The negative response of functional groups to increased complexity was stronger for open space foragers than for edge space foragers. Nyctalus noctula, a species foraging in open space, showed a negative response to structural complexity, whereas Pipistrellus pygmaeus, an edge space forager, was positively influenced by the number of trees. Our results show that MIG is a useful, time- and cost-effective tool to measure habitat complexity that complemented field-based descriptors. Response of bats to structural complexity was group- and species-specific, which highlights the need for manifold management strategies (e.g., increasing or reinstating the extent of ground vegetation cover) to fulfill different species’ requirements, and to conserve insectivorous bats in urban green spaces.

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