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Bat Assemblages Are Shaped by Land Cover Types and Forest Age: A Case Study from Eastern Ukraine

Vlaschenko, Anton; Kravchenko, Kseniia; Yatsiuk, Yehor; Hukov, Vitalii; Kramer-Schadt, Stephanie; Radchuk, Viktoriia

Eastern European broadleaved forests north of the 50th degree of latitude serve as a core breeding area for most migratory bat species wintering in Eastern and Central Europe. The southern border of this region has faced an increase in clear-cutting intensity in recent decades. We conducted a standardized mist-netting survey on eleven heterogeneous oak forest plots in order to assess how land cover types and forest age affect abundance, diversity and the breeding of bats. We found that abundance indices and species richness increased from upland plots surrounded by agricultural lands to riverine or waterside plots with high forest cover. Particularly large mature forests older than 90 years positively affected the breeding activity of bats, their abundance indices and overall species richness. Regarding species associations with specific habitats, we found that Myotis brandtii, Nyctalus leisleri and Pipistrellus pygmaeus were mainly found in mature deciduous forest stands, while Plecotus auritus appeared to be the only species tolerating clearcuts and young stands. Forest-dwelling species such as Nyctalus noctula and Pipistrellus nathusii were additionally associated with water habitats. Thus, the combination of mature forests and water sources is essential in shaping Eastern European assemblages of forest bat species.
Published in: Forests, 10.3390/f13101732, MDPI