Understanding microhabitat preferences of animals is critical for effective conservation, especially for temperate-zone bats, which receive fitness benefits from selecting optimal roost microhabitats. Artificial roost structures are increasingly being used in conservation efforts for at-risk bat species. To evaluate microhabitat differences in common artificial roost structures and determine if roost selection occurs based on structure type, we installed artificial roosts of three different styles (bat box, rocket box, and bark mimic) in six clusters. We compared size and measured temperature parameters (12 points/roost) while bats were excluded from one cluster. We simultaneously conducted census counts during the active season at five more clusters open to bats for 1-2 years. The rocket box style provided larger entrance area, surface area, and volume versus other roost types. Microclimate varied with roost design. More positions inside the bat box and rocket box stayed within critical temperature limits for bats (0-45°C)-i.e., were usable. The bark-mimic provided less usable space than the rocket box and, often, large proportions of the roost were > 45°C. The rocket box provided the widest temperature availability in a given hour (max range available 7°C) and was more stable than the bark mimic. A maternity colony of Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) selected the rocket box style; four of five available rocket boxes became primary maternity roosts, with 2-210 bats emerging per night. Future work should aim to manipulate roost size, temperature availability, and temperature stability in isolation to identify which features drive roost microhabitat selection by bats. Comparative studies of artificial roosts account for some inherent irregularity in natural systems, allowing us to study the dynamics of roost microhabitats. We recommend season-long monitoring of microhabitat in novel artificial refuges and comparative studies of artificial and natural roosts, and urge managers to consider potential positive and negative effects when substituting artificial roosts for natural habitat.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)