Bat Community Structure and Activity in Longleaf and Loblolly Pine Forests of Southwest Georgia

The area of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) forests have declined whereas intensive pine (Pinus spp.) silviculture has increased on the southeastern landscape. Because effects of differing pine management scenarios on bat community structure and activity are largely unknown, we used mist nets and acoustic surveys to examine these factors on mature longleaf pine and intensively managed loblolly pine (P. taeda) landscapes in southwestern Georgia. We placed mist nets over ponds, small streams, and roadside ditches and placed bat detectors in replicates of four vegetation types (open, closed pine, hardwood, mature pine) on each study site. We captured 649 bats of six species during 83 nights of trapping at both sites. Seminole bats (Lasiurus seminolus), red bats (L. borealis), and evening bats (Nycticeius humeralis) accounted for 95% of captures. For both areas combined, 28% of captures were juveniles and 97% of adult females showed signs of reproduction. Evening bats were more commonly captured on the longleaf site, while red bats were more commonly captured on the intensively-managed site. Bat activity was greater in mature pine than other vegetation types on the longleaf site. Activity was lowest in the hardwood on the managed site, but others did not differ. Timber harvest on the managed site created a diversity and abundance of openings and edges that likely provided foraging habitat for red bats, but probably reduced available roosting habitat for evening bats. This likely increased proportion red bats in the community on the managed site. Management activities that reduce clutter (such as burning or thinning) in hardwood and mature pine may benefit the three common bat species in this study on intensively managed landscapes in the southeast.

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