Distribution of Northern Long-eared Bat Summer Habitat on the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

Species distribution models enable resource managers to avoid and mitigate impacts to, or enhance habitat of, target species at the landscape level. Persistent declines of northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis) due to white-nose syndrome have made acquisition of contemporary data difficult. Therefore, use of legacy data may be necessary for creation of species distribution models. We used historical roost and capture records, both individually and in combination, to assess the distribution and availability of northern long-eared bat habitat across the 670,000-ha Monongahela Na- tional Forest (MNF), West Virginia, USA. We created random forest presence/pseudo-absence models to examine influences of various biotic and abi- otic predictors on both roosting and foraging presence locations of northern long-eared bats. Predicted northern long-eared bat habitat was abundant (43.1% of the MNF) and widely dispersed. Generally, all models suggested that northern long-eared bat habitat was characterized by interior forests containing linear edge features. We observed only 3.4% spatial overlap of habitat based on complete model agreement, but 38.5% of all habitat areas resulted from agreement between capture-only and combination models. Our models provide important assessments of habitat availability necessary for addressing state and federal conservation requirements on the MNF and adjacent eastern West Virginia mountains.

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