Bat Activity in Upland and Riparian Habitats in the Georgia Piedmont

Detailed knowledge of habitat use patterns of forest bats in the southeastern United States is needed to predict how habitat changes from forest management and other land use practices affect bat communities. We used Anabat detectors to survey bat activity on the Oconee National Forest, Georgia, among 3 loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) stand ages (clearcut, sapling, and mature) and 3 riparian habitat types (creeks, rivers, and open wetlands). We used echolocation calls to assess differences in relative activity and species richness among stand ages and riparian habitat types. We recorded calls of big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis), eastern pipistrelles (Pipistrellus subflavus), and evening bats (Nycticeius humeralis). Regardless of stand age, species richness was greater in riparian areas than upland areas. Activity of eastern red bats and eastern pipistrelles was greater in riparian areas, whereas activity of big brown and evening bats did not differ between upland and riparian areas. In upland stands, species richness and activity were greater in clearcuts than both other stand ages. In riparian areas, species richness did not differ among habitat types. We recorded fewer big brown bat calls than other bat species over wetlands, but found no differences among species in other riparian habitat types. Our results suggest that early successional habitats and large riparian areas are important habitats for bats in the southeastern United States and should be considered in management decisions.

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