The effect of thinning on bat activity in Italian high forests: the LIFE+ "ManFor C.BD." experience
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CNR, Istituto di Biologia Agroambientale e Forestale (IBAF), U.O.S. Montelibretti (RM)
Corpo Forestale dello Stato, Ufficio Territoriale Biodiversità di Castel di Sangro – Centro Ricerche Ambienti Montani – Castel di Sangro (AQ)
CNR, Istituto di Biologia Agroambientale e Forestale (IBAF), U.O.S. Montelibretti (RM), CNR, Istituto per i Sistemi Agricoli e Forestali del Mediterraneo (ISAFOM), U.O.S. Rende (CS)
Wildlife Research Unit, Dipartimento di Agraria, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II
Publication date: 2015-12-30
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2015;26(2):125-131

Bats represent a major component of forest biodiversity. In forest, bats find many roosting and foraging opportunities. When foraging in forest, different bat species exploit a range of microhabitats according to their echolocation and flight style. When roosting, bats require sufficient numbers of suitable tree cavities. Overall, forest structure may influence both foraging and roosting behaviour, and in turn the number of bat species present and their population size. The exploitation of forests for commercial purposes may be a threat to biodiversity when logging leads to habitat loss, alteration or fragmentation. While some bat species may benefit from an increase in the amount of edge habitat determined by logging, others, more specialized to exploit forest interiors, may be potentially harmed. In this study we set out to assess the effect on foraging bats of different management approaches, comparing locally applied traditional approaches with innovative multifunctional management options and delayed logging. Within the framework of the LIFE+ ManFor C.BD. Project we surveyed the effects of thinning at four Italian forest sites, each representing a separate case study. We found that in logged plots bat activity either showed no difference from unlogged plots or resulted in an increase in foraging activity, suggesting that thinning, at least in the forest types we dealt with, has no adverse consequences on bat foraging. However, in our case the effects varied greatly across sites and were detected mostly when all bat species were pooled together for analysis. We conclude that forest exploitation may be sustainable and even favour foraging bats, but since our work neither covered direct mortality linked with forestry operations nor roost loss, further studies are needed to analyze these important aspects. We also highlight that total bat activity revealed by acoustic surveys carried out with automatic recorders may be used as an appropriate indicator of forestry effects on bats.

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