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Responses at the Population and Assemblage Level

Habitat Fragmentation

Habitat fragmentation has become a major research theme in conservation biology, as reflected in the burgeoning literature on the subject (Fahrig 2003; Ewers and Didham 2006a; Lindenmayer and Fischer 2006; Fischer and Lindenmayer 2007; Collinge 2009). Although the exact definition of “habitat fragmentation” is contentious (Fahrig 2003; Ewers and Didham 2007; Fischer and Lindenmayer 2007), we follow a widely used definition—the landscape-scale process by which habitat loss results in the subdivision of continuous habitat into smaller patches that are isolated from each other by a matrix of modified habitat (Didham 2010).

General Patterns

Despite numerous and increasing attempts to detect consistent responses of tropical bats to habitat fragmentation, studies to date suggest relatively few generalizations. At the population level, many studies have documented that abundance responses to fragmentation are highly species and ensemble specific. For instance, in the Neotropics, abundances of gleaning animalivorous bats (Pons and Cosson 2002; Meyer et al. 2008; Meyer and Kalko 2008a) and certain forest-dependent aerial insectivores (Estrada Villegas et al. 2010) decline in response to fragmentation, whereas frugivorous and nectarivorous bats often increase (Sampaio et al. 2003; Delaval and Charles-Dominique 2006; Meyer and Kalko 2008a). In the Paleotropics, insectivorous bat species that roost in tree cavities or foliage are more vulnerable to fragmentation than are cave-roosting species (Struebig et al. 2008, 2009). At the assemblage level, studies that have compared fragmented and continuous forest in terms of species richness, diversity, and composition demonstrate inconsistent responses (Cosson et al. 1999; Schulze et al. 2000; Estrada and Coates-Estrada 2002; Faria 2006). Differences among sites with regard to fragmentation history and structural contrast between fragments and the surrounding matrix complicate the detection of general patterns. This may be a more important issue for the study of tropical bats compared to other taxonomic groups because of the wide range of dispersal abilities exhibited by chiropteran species.

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