Habitat suitability and connectivity modeling reveal priority areas for Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) conservation in a complex habitat mosaic

Ashleigh B. Cable, Joy M. O’Keefe, Jill L. Deppe, Tara C. Hohoff, Steven J. Taylor, Mark A. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Context: Conservation for the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), a federally endangered species in the United States of America, is typically focused on local maternity sites; however, the species is a regional migrant, interacting with the environment at multiple spatial scales. Hierarchical levels of management may be necessary, but we have limited knowledge of landscape-level ecology, distribution, and connectivity of suitable areas in complex landscapes. Objectives: We sought to (1) identify factors influencing M. sodalis maternity colony distribution in a mosaic landscape, (2) map suitable maternity habitat, and (3) quantify connectivity importance of patches to direct conservation action. Methods: Using 3 decades of occurrence data, we tested a priori, hypothesis-driven habitat suitability models. We mapped suitable areas and quantified connectivity importance of habitat patches with probabilistic habitat availability metrics. Results: Factors improving landscape-scale suitability included limited agriculture, more forest cover, forest edge, proximity to medium-sized water bodies, lower elevations, and limited urban development. Areas closer to hibernacula and rivers were suitable. Binary maps showed that 30% of the study area was suitable for M. sodalis and 29% was important for connectivity. Most suitable patches were important for intra-patch connectivity and far fewer contributed to inter-patch connectivity. Conclusions: While simple models may be effective for small, homogenous landscapes, complex models are needed to explain habitat suitability in large, mixed landscapes. Suitability modeling identified factors that made sites attractive as maternity areas. Connectivity analysis improved our understanding of important areas for bats and prioritized areas to target for restoration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-137
Number of pages19
JournalLandscape Ecology
Volume36
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Bats
  • Conefor
  • Functional connectivity
  • Landscape
  • Maxent
  • Summer habitat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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