Changes in bat community composition and activity patterns across a conservation-agriculture boundary

  • Fezile Mtsetfwa
  • Robert A. McCleery
  • Ara Monadjem
Keywords: biodiversity, Chiroptera, echolocation, savanna, seasonality, species richness, sugarcane


Agricultural landscapes are typically associated with a decreased biodiversity, particularly when they extend across large spatial scales. Despite the fact that some African bat species seem to provide essential ecosystem services across landscapes, we only have a limited understanding of how intensive agricultural practices influence bat communities. This study investigated the effects of sugarcane monoculture on the composition of both bat species and functional groups across a conservation-agricultural matrix. Specifically, we wanted to understand changes in the bat communities within savannas and sugarcane plantations. We categorised bats into broad foraging (functional) groups based on their echolocation call structure: open-air; clutter-edge; and, clutter. To measure bat activity, we established twelve 25 ha grids randomly located in savanna and sugarcane vegetation. Within each grid we placed nine acoustic detectors, in 3 × 3 formation, 250 m apart; totalling 54 plots in each land use. We sampled each plot over four nights (two in the wet season and two in the dry season) during a one-year period. We did not observe a significant difference in species richness between savanna and sugarcane. However, there was a difference in functional group composition. Sugarcane negatively affected clutter foragers; this group was practically absent here despite occurring within neighbouring savannas. We observed distinct patterns of seasonality in bat activity, with activity of all functional groups being reduced in the dry season.

Keywords: biodiversity, Chiroptera, echolocation, savanna, seasonality, species richness, sugarcane


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-073X
print ISSN: 1562-7020