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Effects of Artificial Roosts for Frugivorous Bats on Seed Dispersal in a Neotropical Forest Pasture Mosaic

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In the Neotropics ongoing deforestation is producing open and heavily fragmented landscapes dominated by agriculture, mostly plantations and cattle pastures. After some time agriculture often becomes uneconomical and land is abandoned. Subsequent habitat regeneration may be slow because seed inputs are restricted by a lack of incentives—such as suitable roost sites—for seed dispersers to enter deforested areas. Increasing environmental awareness has fostered growing efforts to promote reforestation. Practical and cost-efficient methods for kick-starting forest regeneration are, however, lacking. We investigated whether artificial bat roosts for frugivorous bat species can attract these key seed dispersers to deforested areas, thereby increasing seed rain. We installed artificial bat roosts in a forest-pasture mosaic in the Costa Rican Atlantic lowlands and monitored bat colonization and seed dispersal. Colonization occurred within a few weeks of installation, and 10 species of bats occupied the artificial roosts. Five species of frugivorous or nectarivorous bats colonized artificial roosts permanently in both primary habitat and in deforested areas, in numbers similar to those found in natural roosts. Seed input around artificial roosts increased significantly. Sixty-nine different seed types, mostly of early-successional plant species, were transported by bats to artificial roosts in disturbed habitats. The installation of artificial bat roosts thus successfully attracted frugivorous bats and increased seed inputs into degraded sites. This method is likely to speed up early-vegetation succession, which in turn will attract additional seed dispersers, such as birds, and provide a microhabitat for seeds of mid- and late-successional plants. As well as supporting natural forest regeneration and bat conservation, this cost-efficient method can also increase environmental awareness among landowners.
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Keywords: Carollia; artificial bat roosts; dispersión de semillas; ecological restoration; ecología de refugios; frugivorous bats; murciélagos frugívoros; reforestación; reforestation; refugios artificiales para murciélagos; restauración ecológica; roosting ecology; seed dispersal

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Institute for Zoology 2, Staudtstr. 5, 91058 Erlangen, Germany

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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