Species richness patterns and functional traits of the bat fauna of arid southern Africa
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The bat fauna of arid regions is still poorly studied mostly due to a lack of interest in areas with low species richness and a low number of threatened species. In this study, we reviewed the status of bat diversity in the arid parts of southern Africa, with the aim of setting up a baseline for future work. In particular, we described species richness patterns across four arid zones within the region (Namib Desert, Kalahari, Nama Karoo and Succulent Karoo), exploring abiotic gradients and local landscape structure. Additionally, we examined bat functional groups in this region and compared them with those of three other arid regions of the world to identify potential similarities and differences. The southern African arid region hosted 17 bat species, representing eight families, of which three are endemic to the region (Rhinolophus denti, Laephotis namibensis and Cistugo seabrae) and one is vagrant (the fruit bat Eidolon helvum). Species richness varied spatially within this arid region, being highest in the drier but topographically heterogeneous Namib Desert, probably as a result of roost availability. With regards to functional groups, the southern African arid region had few bat species adapted to foraging in open spaces, particularly when compared with the neighbouring savannahs. Drawing from this study, we suggest that: a) despite species richness decreasing with increasing aridity at the sub-continental scale, at a more local scale landscape features (e.g. habitat structure) might be more relevant than aridity in determining bat species richness; and b) an unknown factor, possibly patterns of temperature limiting the availability of insects flying high above the ground, restricted the diversity of the open air foragers throughout the region. We highlight additional areas of research worth investigation.
- RESEARCH: Taylor, P