Climatic gradients and forest composition shape bat communities in Eastern Mediterranean pine plantations

  • Animal Science and Zoology

AbstractBiotic and abiotic factors can act as filters for determining the species composition of biological communities. We aimed to identify abiotic factors driving the assembly of bat communities in Eastern Mediterranean pine plantations along a north–south climatic gradient, as they are crucial forest habitats for the assessment and conservation of these communities. We expected that bat communities are predominantly shaped by environmental filtering. We conducted acoustic sampling in 35 pine plantations in Israel and analyzed recordings for species identification. We used the ESLTP analysis, an extension of the three‐table ordination (RLQ analysis), to explore relationships between environmental characteristics, species occurrences, and functional traits of species while accounting for phylogenetic relationships between species and spatial distribution of the communities. Communities showed phylogenetic and trait clustering. Climatic conditions and forest vegetation composition shaped communities of bats, affecting the distribution of traits related to foraging behaviors, vegetation clutter, and the ability of bats to maneuver in it. Maneuverable species were associated with the northern Mediterranean climatic zone, with a scarce cover of drought‐tolerant small shrubs and grassland. Fast flyers were associated with the center‐south semi‐arid area, with abundant drought‐tolerant small shrubs and grassland. These forces might have a predominant role in the assembly of these communities, presumably due to the stressful climatic conditions of the study area. The ESLTP approach can be extended to other taxa and environments to predict species responses to disturbance and environmental changes and give insights into environmental management.

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