Data from Rapid Inventories of Bats As Insight for Forest Habitat Management

The need to understand habitat requirements for bats is becoming more urgent as new risks pose unprecedented challenges to these unique mammals. We undertook a brief, intensive survey to investigate bat habitat use in and around the Apalachicola National Forest during May 2012. Making use of experienced volunteer biologists representing many agencies and organizations, we surveyed 31 sites during three nights of mist netting, capturing 245 bats of eight species. We used logistic regression and cluster analysis to evaluate habitat use and diet. Although data collected during such a brief period have limited power, trends suggest that vegetation characteristics at a small spatial scale surrounding capture sites (100-m radius) affected occurrence of bat species more than vegetation characteristics at a larger spatial scale (500-m radius), and that the type of anthropogenic roost structure at the capture site (e.g., bridge, culvert) was more influential than the type of water body (e.g., pond, creek). Assessment of bat guano revealed that Hemiptera (true bugs) were the dominant order of invertebrates consumed by bats; bats grouped into two categories based on whether the second most common order consumed was Lepidoptera (moths) or Coleoptera (beetles). Land managers in the Florida Panhandle should consider bats when planning forest management activities near water features in upland and disturbed habitats during maternity season; existing silvicultural Best Manage- ment Practices may not adequately address bat habitat needs. Also, water crossing structures should incorporate design features consistent with known roost preferences of local bat species. Lastly, we suggest that brief surveys performed by expert volunteers have the potential to contribute more than has historically been gleaned: with modest modifications, foundational data on habitat use and diet could be collected to inform forest management activities.

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