Habitat ecology of bats at multiple scales in natural longleaf and intensively managed loblolly pine forests in Georgia.
Castleberry, Steven*,1, Miles, Adam1, 3, Miller, Darren2, Conner, L3, 1 Warnell School of Forest Resources, Athens, GA, USA3 Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, Newton, GA, USA2 Weyerhaeuser Company, Columbus, MS, USA
ABSTRACT- The longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem historically dominated the Coastal Plain of the Southeastern United States. The open forest structure with numerous large trees and snags likely provided quality habitat for a variety of bats, including abundant roosting opportunities for cavity and bark roosting species. The area in natural longleaf pine forest has been drastically reduced while intensively managed loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantations have increased in the region. Intensively managed pine plantations often have short rotation times which results in a more dense forest structure and limits development of large trees and snags. Our objective was to investigate differences in habitat ecology of bats between intensively managed and natural pine forests landscapes. During the summers of 2002 and 2003, we used mist nets, Anabat II bat detectors, and radiotelemetry to examine habitat use on a second growth, mature longleaf pine reserve managed on a two year fire rotation (natural) and a study area intensively managed for loblolly pine sawtimber and pulpwood production with a 30 year clear-cut rotation (managed). We chose the evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis) as a focal species to investigate bat roosting ecology using radiotelemetry. We recorded bat activity using bat detectors placed in replicate stands (natural = 18, managed = 16) of 4 habitat types (mature pine, closed canopy pine, hardwood, open) on each site. On the natural site, mature pine had between 1 and 18 passes per hour more than other habitat types, while on the managed site, mature pine (6.8 ± 2.2 pass per hour), open (4.9 ± 0.9), and closed canopy pine(3.9 ± 1.6) had greater activity than hardwood (1.5 ± 0.5) forest. We identified 168 roosts used by 100 radiotagged evening bats. Evening bats used a variety of species of live trees and snags, but live conifers (Pinus spp. and Taxodium spp.) were the most common type of tree used on both study areas. Mature pine was the most common habitat type used by roosting evening bats on the natural site (78 %), while hardwood (47 %) and mature pine (32 %) were used most often on the managed site. Differences in roosting and foraging habitats were observed between the sites and likely reflected the differences in availability of habitat types under the different management regimes.
Key words: Nycticeius humeralis, Pinus palustris, Pinus taeda, Coastal Plain
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