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PLoS One. 2011 Jan 26;6(1):e16502. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016502.

Ensemble composition and activity levels of insectivorous bats in response to management intensification in coffee agroforestry systems.

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University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources & Environment, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America.


Shade coffee plantations have received attention for their role in biodiversity conservation. Bats are among the most diverse mammalian taxa in these systems; however, previous studies of bats in coffee plantations have focused on the largely herbivorous leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae). In contrast, we have virtually no information on how ensembles of aerial insectivorous bats--nearly half the Neotropical bat species--change in response to habitat modification. To evaluate the effects of agroecosystem management on insectivorous bats, we studied their diversity and activity in southern Chiapas, Mexico, a landscape dominated by coffee agroforestry. We used acoustic monitoring and live captures to characterize the insectivorous bat ensemble in forest fragments and coffee plantations differing in the structural and taxonomic complexity of shade trees. We captured bats of 12 non-phyllostomid species; acoustic monitoring revealed the presence of at least 12 more species of aerial insectivores. Richness of forest bats was the same across all land-use types; in contrast, species richness of open-space bats increased in low shade, intensively managed coffee plantations. Conversely, only forest bats demonstrated significant differences in ensemble structure (as measured by similarity indices) across land-use types. Both overall activity and feeding activity of forest bats declined significantly with increasing management intensity, while the overall activity, but not feeding activity, of open-space bats increased. We conclude that diverse shade coffee plantations in our study area serve as valuable foraging and commuting habitat for aerial insectivorous bats, and several species also commute through or forage in low shade coffee monocultures.

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