OPEN PloS one | 17 Nov 2012
PE Lentini, P Gibbons, J Fischer, B Law, J Hanspach and TG Martin
Schemes designed to make farming landscapes less hostile to wildlife have been questioned because target taxa do not always respond in the expected manner. Microbats are often overlooked in this process, yet persist in agricultural landscapes and exert top-down control of crop pests. We investigated the relationship between microbats and measures commonly incorporated into agri-environment schemes, to derive management recommendations for their ongoing conservation. We used acoustic detectors to quantify bat species richness, activity, and feeding in 32 linear remnants and adjacent fields across an agricultural region of New South Wales, Australia. Nocturnal arthropods were simultaneously trapped using black-light traps. We recorded 91,969 bat calls, 17,277 of which could be attributed to one of the 13 taxa recorded, and 491 calls contained feeding buzzes. The linear remnants supported higher bat activity than the fields, but species richness and feeding activity did not significantly differ. We trapped a mean 87.6 g (±17.6 g SE) of arthropods per night, but found no differences in biomass between land uses. Wider linear remnants with intact native vegetation supported more bat species, as did those adjacent to unsealed, as opposed to sealed roads. Fields of unimproved native pastures, with more retained scattered trees and associated hollows and logs, supported the greatest bat species richness and activity. We conclude that the juxtaposition of linear remnants of intact vegetation and scattered trees in fields, coupled with less-intensive land uses such as unimproved pastures will benefit bat communities in agricultural landscapes, and should be incorporated into agri-environment schemes. In contrast, sealed roads may act as a deterrent. The “wildlife friendly farming” vs “land sparing” debate has so far primarily focussed on birds, but here we have found evidence that the integration of both approaches could particularly benefit bats.
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