Seeing the forest through the trees: Considering roost-site selection at multiple spatial scales

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Conservation of bat species is one of the most daunting wildlife conservation challenges in North America, requiring detailed knowledge about their ecology to guide conservation efforts. Outside of the hibernating season, bats in temperate forest environments spend their diurnal time in day-roosts. In addition to simple shelter, summer roost availability is as critical as maternity sites and maintaining social group contact. To date, a major focus of bat conservation has concentrated on conserving individual roost sites, with comparatively less focus on the role that broader habitat conditions contribute towards roost-site selection. We evaluated roost-site selection by a northern population of federally-endangered Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) at Fort Drum Military Installation in New York, USA at three different spatial scales: landscape, forest stand, and individual tree level. During 2007–2011, we radiotracked 33 Indiana bats (10 males, 23 females) and located 348 roosting events in 116 unique roost trees. At the landscape scale, bat roost-site selection was positively associated with northern mixed forest, increased slope, and greater distance from human development. At the stand scale, we observed subtle differences in roost site selection based on sex and season, but roost selection was generally positively associated with larger stands with a higher basal area, larger tree diameter, and a greater sugar maple (Acer saccharum) component. We observed no distinct trends of roosts being near high-quality foraging areas of water and forest edges. At the tree scale, roosts were typically in American elm (Ulmus americana) or sugar maple of large diameter (>30 cm) of moderate decay with loose bark. Collectively, our results highlight the importance of considering day roost needs simultaneously across multiple spatial scales. Size and decay class of individual roosts are key ecological attributes for the Indiana bat, however, larger-scale stand structural components that are products of past and current land use interacting with environmental aspects such as landform also are important factors influencing roost-tree selection patterns.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Seeing the forest through the trees: Considering roost-site selection at multiple spatial scales
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0150011
Volume 11
Issue 3
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher PLoS
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description e0150011; 19 p.
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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