Use of native woodlands and traditional olive groves by foraging bats on a Mediterranean island: consequences for conservation


Christina M. Davy, Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON N6A 5B7 Canada. Tel: +1 647 838 8946; Fax: +1 416 483 6525


We recorded bat activity on Zakynthos island (Greece) to test the hypotheses that (1) olive (Olea europea) groves and native woodlands provide comparable foraging habitat for insectivorous bats, (2) lower foraging activity occurs in olive groves treated with insecticide chemicals. We acoustically sampled bat activity (passes per minute) in four wooded habitats (organic and non-organic olive groves, oak woodland (Quercus ilex and Quercus coccifera) and pine (Pinus halepensis) woodland from June to August 2005. Habitat type did not affect overall bat activity. A single application of insecticide chemicals annually did not affect activity over traditional olive groves. Habitat use on the island differed in several ways from that reported in studies at mainland sites. Most strikingly, pine woodland supported higher bat activity than expected relative to other habitat types, and we recorded unexpectedly high levels of M. capaccinii activity in woodland habitats. We suggest that traditional olive groves buffer some bat species from the effects of deforestation. Conservation plans for Mediterranean bats should consider the biodiversity value of these groves along with the need to conserve small woodland patches. Finally, understanding island-specific patterns of habitat use is essential to bat conservation on small off-shore islands.