Bats in the anthropogenic matrix: Challenges and opportunities for the conservation of chiroptera and their ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes
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Intensification in land-use and farming practices has had largely negative effects on bats, leading to population declines and concomitant losses of ecosystem services. Current trends in land-use change suggest that agricultural areas will further expand, while production systems may either experience further intensification (particularly in developing nations) or become more environmentally friendly (especially in Europe). In this chapter, we review the existing literature on how agricultural management affects the bat assemblages and the behavior of individual bat species, as well as the literature on provision of ecosystem services by bats (pest insect suppression and pollination) in agricultural systems. Bats show highly variable responses to habitat conversion, with no significant change in species richness or measures of activity or abundance. In contrast, intensification within agricultural systems (i.e., increased agrochemical inputs, reduction of natural structuring elements such as hedges, woods, and marshes) had more consistently negative effects on abundance and species richness. Agroforestry systems appear to mitigate negative consequences of habitat conversion and intensification, often having higher abundances and activity levels than natural areas. Across biomes, bats play key roles in limiting populations of arthropods by consuming various agricultural pests. In tropical areas, bats are key pollinators of several commercial fruit species. However, these substantial benefits may go unrecognized by farmers, who sometimes associate bats with ecosystem disservices such as crop raiding. Given the importance of bats for global food production, future agricultural management should focus on “wildlife-friendly” farming practices that allow more bats to exploit and persist in the anthropogenic matrix so as to enhance provision of ecosystem services. Pressing research topics include (1) a better understanding of how local-level versus landscape-level management practices interact to structure bat assemblages, (2) the effects of new pesticide classes and GM crops on bat populations, and (3) how increased documentation and valuation of the ecosystem services provided by bats could improve attitudes of producers toward their conservation.
- RESEARCH: Taylor, P