1. Wildfires are increasing in incidence and severity across the western US, leading to changes in forest structure and wildlife habitats. Knowledge of how species respond to fire-driven habitat changes in these landscapes is limited and generally disconnected from our understanding of adaptations that underpin responses to fire.
2. We aimed to identify relationships between fire regime, physiographic and forest structure variables, and occupancy and functional traits of a diverse bat community, to inform forest management in a fire-prone landscape.
3. We recorded bats acoustically at 83 sites (n = 249 recording nights) across the Plumas National Forest in the northern Sierra Nevada over 3 summers (2015-2017). We investigated relationships between fire regime, physiographic and forest structure and probability of bat occupancy for 9 species. We used fourth corner regression and RLQ analysis to identify ecomorphological traits (body mass; call frequency, bandwidth and duration; and open, edge or clutter (structurally complex vegetation) adapted foraging strategy) driving species-environment relationships across all 17 bat species.
4. Relationships between bat traits and fire regime were driven by adaptations to diverse forest structure. Bats adapted to foraging in open habitats and emitting longer duration and narrow bandwidth calls were associated with higher severity and more frequent fires, and bats adapted to foraging in a more cluttered environment were negatively associated with fire. Relationships between edge-adapted bat species and fire were driven by prey preference or habitat availability and configuration at a landscape scale.
5. Predicted increases in fire frequency and severity in the western US are likely to shift dominance in the bat community to species adapted to open environments and those able to exploit post-fire resource pulses (aquatic insects, beetles, snags). Managing for pyrodiversity within the western US is likely important for maintaining bat community diversity, as well as diversity of other biotic communities. Identifying trait-fire regime relationships will help forest managers develop appropriate management interventions and focus limited resources to provide for a broad range of species.