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When corridors collide: Road-related disturbance in commuting bats


  • Victoria J. Bennett,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA
    • Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA
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  • Arthur A. Zurcher

    1. Center for North America Bat Research and Conservation, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN 47809, USA
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  • Associate Editor: Amy Kuenzi


As an increasingly dominant feature in the landscape, transportation corridors are becoming a major concern for bats. Although wildlife–vehicle collisions are considered to be a major source of mortality, other negative implications of roads on bat populations are just now being realized. Recent studies have revealed that bats, like many other wildlife species, will avoid roads rather than cross them. The consequence is that roads act as barriers or filters to movement, restricting bats from accessing critical resources. Our objective was to assess specific features along the commuting route, road, or surrounding landscape (alone or in combination) that exacerbated or alleviated the likelihood of a commuting bat exhibiting an avoidance behavior in response to an approaching vehicle. At 5 frequently used commuting routes bisected by roads, we collected data on vehicles travelling along the roads (such as visibility and audibility), commuting bats (such as height), and composition of the commuting route. We revealed that commuting route structure dictated the frequency at which bats turned back along their commuting routes and avoided the road. We found that gaps (>2 m) in commuting routes, such as the road itself, caused bats to turn away just before they reached the road. Furthermore, we found that turning frequencies of bats increased with vehicle noise levels and the locations at which bats responded to vehicles corresponded with areas where noise levels were greatest, including gaps <2 m. This suggested that bats had a disturbance threshold, and only reacted to vehicles when associated noise reached a certain level. We found that threshold levels for our study species were approximately 88 dB, but this value was likely to vary among species. Thus, our findings indicate that restoring (e.g., replanting native trees and shrubs in gaps) and establishing commuting routes (such as planting tree-lines and wooded hedgerows), as well as creating road-crossing opportunities (such as interlinking canopies) will improve the permeability of a road-dominated landscape to bats. Furthermore, our study highlights the influence of the soundscape. We recommend that effective management and mitigation strategies should take into account the ecological design of the acoustic environment. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.