While studies have found that bat abundance is positively related to the amount of forest cover in a landscape, the effects of forest fragmentation (breaking apart of forest, independent of amount) are less certain, with some indirect evidence for positive effects of fragmentation. However, in most of these studies, the variables used to quantify fragmentation are confounded with forest amount, making it difficult to interpret the results. The purpose of this study was to examine how forest amount and forest fragmentation independently affect bat abundance. We conducted acoustic bat surveys at the centers of 22 landscapes throughout eastern Ontario, Canada, where landscapes were chosen to avoid a correlation between forest amount and forest fragmentation (number of patches) at multiple spatial scales, while simultaneously controlling for other variables that could affect bat activity. We found that the effects of forest amount on bat relative abundance were mixed across species (positive for Lasiurus borealis, negative for Perimyotis subflavus and Lasionycteris noctivagans). When there was evidence for an effect of forest fragmentation, independent of forest amount, on bat relative abundance, the effect was positive (Myotis septentrionalis, Myotis lucifugus and Lasiurus borealis). We suggest that the mechanism driving the positive responses to fragmentation is higher landscape complementation in more fragmented landscapes; that is, increased access to both foraging and roosting sites for these bat species. We conclude that fragmented landscapes that maximize complementation between roosting and foraging sites should support a higher diversity and abundance of bats.

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Landscape Ecology
Department of Biology

Ethier, K. (Kevin), & Fahrig, L. (2011). Positive effects of forest fragmentation, independent of forest amount, on bat abundance in eastern Ontario, Canada. Landscape Ecology, 26(6), 865–876. doi:10.1007/s10980-011-9614-2