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Hard forest edges act as conduits, not filters, for bats


  • Associate Editor: Arnett



High levels of bat activity have been reported at forest edges worldwide, but few studies have examined the ecological function of edges as a linear landscape feature. Patterns of association of bats at edges between old and young forest stands (hard edges) could be a result of edges acting as either a semi-permeable barrier or a filter to movement into the forest between different-aged forest stands for bats (or their insect prey), causing an accumulation of bat activity along the edge. Alternatively, edges may be a linear landscape feature similar to roads and riparian corridors that bats use as flight conduits as they move from one place to another. Using ultrasound microphone arrays and recording equipment, we were able to determine flight patterns of bats at hard edges within a landscape of intensively managed loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantation in eastern North Carolina, USA, during 2009. Across edges and species sampled, bats consistently flew parallel to edges, suggesting that edges act as conduits for bats. Feeding rates of bats at edges were low, further supporting use of edges as conduits for bats that are either flying along edges to move to and from roosting and foraging habitat patches or moving among foraging patches. Continuous edges should be maintained between linear and nonlinear landscape features, especially where known roosting and foraging areas are being connected by an edge. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.