Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bats not bothered by forest fires, study finds

Date:
March 6, 2013
Source:
University of California - Santa Cruz
Summary:
A survey of bat activity in burned and unburned areas after a major wildfire in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains found no evidence of detrimental effects on bats one year after the fire. The findings suggest that bats are resilient to high-severity fire, and some species may even benefit from the effects of fire on the landscape.

The pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus) is one of the species researchers monitored after the McNally Fire.
Credit: Photo by W. Frick

A survey of bat activity in burned and unburned areas after a major wildfire in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains found no evidence of detrimental effects on bats one year after the fire. The findings suggest that bats are resilient to high-severity fire, and some species may even benefit from the effects of fire on the landscape.

The study, led by bat ecologist Winifred Frick of the University of California, Santa Cruz, was published in the journal PLOS ONE on March 6. The findings are important because current understanding of how wildlife responds to fire is based almost entirely on studies of a limited number of species, most of them birds, Frick said. Bats make up a large component of mammalian diversity in forest ecosystems, where they play an important role as insect predators.

"This is the first study to directly address species-level response by bats to stand-replacing fire, and our results show that moderate to high-severity fire has neutral or positive impacts on a suite of bat species," Frick said.

Studies that show how animals respond to fire help inform the ongoing public policy debate over the role of fire in ecosystem management and whether fires should be suppressed or allowed to burn on public lands, according to coauthor Joseph Fontaine, a fire ecologist at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia.

"A great deal of tension exists between public land managers, environmental groups, and other stakeholders--including homeowners, ranching interests, and the timber industry--over allowing stand-replacing crown fires on public forests," Fontaine said. "This study fills a critical gap on how fire affects an important group of animals."

The researchers conducted the study in an area of Sequoia and Inyo National Forests where the 2002 McNally Fire burned more than 150,000 acres. The fire burned with mixed severity, leaving a mosaic of low- to high-severity damage, as well as patches of unburned forest. The study compared bat foraging activity in areas of unburned, moderately burned, and severely burned forest.

The researchers conducted surveys in 2003, using high-frequency microphones to record the ultrasonic echolocation pulses that bats use to hunt insects. Of the 16 bat species known to live in the area, some have distinctive sonic signatures, while others can be sorted into groups with similar echolocation sounds and foraging behaviors. In this study, the researchers identified six "phonic groups," including three individual species and three groups of species.

The results showed that the responses of the six phonic groups to moderate and high-severity fire were either neutral or positive. The heterogeneity such fires create in the landscape may be an important feature, resulting in a habitat structure that benefits a range of species, Frick said.

"Bats could be resilient to this kind of natural disturbance," she said. "We go out there and see a charred landscape and we think it's totally destroyed, but the bats may find it a productive habitat for their needs."

Some species seem to prefer burned areas for foraging. This could be due to reduced clutter and increased availability of prey and roosts after a fire, although further research on these topics is needed, according to coauthor Michael Buchalski, a doctoral student at Western Michigan University. "Fire may provide a pulse of insects immediately after the fire and create roosting habitat later on as snags decay and their bark peels back," he said.

Buchalski and Fontaine share first authorship of the paper. Frick led the survey of echolocation activity, and coauthors Paul Heady of the Central Coast Bat Research Group and John Hayes of the University of Florida also contributed to the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Santa Cruz. The original article was written by Tim Stephens. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael R. Buchalski, Joseph B. Fontaine, Paul A. Heady, John P. Hayes, Winifred F. Frick. Bat Response to Differing Fire Severity in Mixed-Conifer Forest California, USA. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (3): e57884 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057884

Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Cruz. "Bats not bothered by forest fires, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130306221141.htm>.
University of California - Santa Cruz. (2013, March 6). Bats not bothered by forest fires, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130306221141.htm
University of California - Santa Cruz. "Bats not bothered by forest fires, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130306221141.htm (accessed September 3, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands of Fish Dead in Mexico Lake

Raw: Thousands of Fish Dead in Mexico Lake

AP (Sep. 2, 2014) — Over 53 tons of rotting fish have been removed from Lake Cajititlan in western Jalisco state. Authorities say that the thousands of fish did not die of natural causes. (Sep. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Iceland Volcano Spewing Smoke

Raw: Iceland Volcano Spewing Smoke

AP (Sep. 2, 2014) — The alert warning for the area surrounding Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano was kept at orange on Tuesday, indicating increased unrest with greater potential for an eruption. Smoke is spewing from the volcano, and lava is spouting nearby. (Sept. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Halliburton Reaches $1B Gulf Spill Settlement

Halliburton Reaches $1B Gulf Spill Settlement

AP (Sep. 2, 2014) — Halliburton's agreement to pay more than $1 billion to settle numerous claims involving the 2010 BP oil spill could be a way to diminish years of costly litigation. A federal judge still has to approve the settlement. (Sept. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins