Foraging behaviour of a frugivorous bat helps bridge landscape connectivity and ecological processes in a fragmented rainforest
M. Henry, Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, Universidad National Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 27–3 (Xangari), Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico. E-mail: email@example.com
- 1Landscape connectivity may greatly influence the distribution of animals when it alters their movements and their ability to reach food patches. Depending on their foraging behaviour, organisms may or may not adapt to anthropogenic changes in landscape connectivity and may eventually undergo local extinctions.
- 2Recent studies underlined the need to use indicators of functional landscape connectivity based on the behaviour and movement abilities of studied animals to better link landscape structure to ecological processes in disturbed and fragmented areas.
- 3The objectives of this study were: to elaborate an index of functional connectivity for Rhinophylla pumilio, a Neotropical understorey frugivorous bat; to use this index to investigate the possible mechanisms controlling its distribution and sustainability in a fragmented landscape; and to test whether this index could be applied to other species of the same guild.
- 4We pursued a 10-year bat mist-net survey, coupled to local estimates of food availability, in a mature forest of French Guiana that was recently fragmented by the completion of a reservoir lake. The 18 sampling sites range from undisturbed continuous forest sites to small remote forest fragments. A connectivity value, based on radio-tracking surveys, was attributed to each site. Connectivity measures mean forest cover within neighbouring landscape units, weighted by the probability that bats would use them, as estimated by frequency distribution of flight distance data.
- 5The abundance of R. pumilio was positively correlated with landscape connectivity and not correlated with local food availability. Its foraging strategy has evolved in response to the highly scattered distribution of its fruit resource. In spite of its high mobility, R. pumilio apparently failed to exploit a food resource that is distributed patchily over a low-connective habitat because its foraging movements are not well adapted to habitat disruptions.
- 6The connectivity index contributed to explain general tendencies of abundance variations in other understorey frugivorous bats, although the spatial scale we examined was probably too small for these species. We make recommendations to adapt a functional connectivity index to species whose large-scale movements are difficult to survey.