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Three-dimensional stratification pattern in an old-growth lowland forest: how does height in canopy and season influence temperate bat activity?

Citation

Erasmy, Maude; Leuschner, Christoph; Balkenhol, Niko; Dietz, Markus (2022), Three-dimensional stratification pattern in an old-growth lowland forest: how does height in canopy and season influence temperate bat activity?, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.cjsxksn6m

Abstract

The study of animal-habitat interactions is of primary importance for the formulation of conservation recommendations. Flying, gliding and climbing animals have the ability to exploit their habitat in a three-dimensional way and the vertical canopy structure in forests plays an essential role for habitat suitability. Forest bats as flying mammals may seasonally shift their microhabitat use due to differing energy demands or changing prey availability, but the patterns are not well understood.

We investigated three-dimensional and seasonal habitat use by insectivorous bats in a temperate lowland old-growth forest, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha in Belarus. We acoustically sampled broadleaved and mixed coniferous plots in the forest interior and in gaps in three heights during two reproductive periods (pregnancy/lactation versus post-lactation). In canopy gaps, vertical stratification in bat activity was less pronounced than in the forest interior. Vertical activity patterns differed among species. The upper canopy levels were important foraging habitats for the open-space forager guild and for some edge-space foragers like the Barbastelle bat Barbastella barbastellus and the soprano pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus. Myotis species had highest activity levels near the ground in forest gaps. Moreover, we found species-dependent seasonal microhabitat shifts. Generally, all species and species groups considered except Myotis species showed higher activity levels during post-lactation. Myotis species tended towards higher activity in the forest interior during post-lactation. P. pygmaeus switched from high activity levels in the upper canopy during pregnancy and lactation to high activity levels near the ground during post-lactation. We conclude that a full comprehension of forest bat habitat use is only possible when height in canopy and seasonal patterns are considered.

Methods

The data were acoustically collected using batcorders suspended in hanging chains at three heights in the forest, simultaneously in canopy gaps and in the forest interior. Two forest types were sampled: broadleaved Tilio-Carpinetum and coniferous Pino-Quercetum stands, both old-growth and in the Strictly Protected Zone of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha Nationalpark. Acoustic recordings were analysed using the software BcAdmin, BatIdent and BcAnalyse according to the Methods part of the paper. Data were analysed on a guild basis (for the guilds dataset) and on a species basis (for the species datatset) for the dominant species Myotis spec (Myotis spec. and Myotis brandtii combined), Pipistrellus pygmaeus and Barbastella barbastellus.

The activity data in the dataset correspond to an activity index. the raw number of recordings were recalculated into minute-intervals per night as activity index according to the Methods part, as number of minute-intervals per night with activity from the respective guild or species considered.

Funding

Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, Award: PhD grant