Charles J Sharp [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

This paper was originally published in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment


Highlights:

  • Overall bat activity was higher in natural habitat compared to farms.
  • Crop diversification increased activity of all bat species and clutter-adapted bats.
  • Activity of clutter-adapted bats was higher on farms with greater prey biomass.
  • Prey biomass increased with crop diversity and less frequent pesticide use.
  • Agroecological farming practices can improve on-farm habitat quality for bats.

Abstract: Intensive agriculture is a major driver of biodiversity loss, and a critical part of creating sustainable food systems is finding ways to balance production and conservation. While practices characteristic of agricultural intensification tend to erode biodiversity, agroecological farming practices can potentially support biodiversity and enhance pest suppression services. Bats are important predators of agricultural pests, yet little is known about how prescriptive management practices can be used to support bats and their associated pest-suppression services.

We investigate how bats use natural habitat and conventional and organic farms in an agricultural landscape, ask which on-farm management practices may benefit bats, and examine how these management practices influence bats by mediating changes in habitat quality. We conducted acoustic surveys at 54 sites in the California Central Coast Region, a productive region with high ecological and economic value. We found higher bat activity in natural habitat compared to farms for total bat activity and clutter-adapted, but not open space bats, and slightly higher bat diversity in natural habitat compared to conventional farms. We found no effect of habitat type on species richness and a weak effect of habitat type on bat diversity, although bat community composition differed significantly between natural habitat and farms.

Crop diversification increased the activity of all bat species and clutter-adapted, but not open space bats, regardless of the amount of semi-natural habitat surrounding farms. Both crop diversification and less frequent pesticide applications increased prey biomass, and the activity of clutter-adapted bats was positively correlated with greater Lepidoptera biomass. We suggest that improving habitat quality (increasing abundance of insect prey) through vegetative diversification and/or less frequent pesticide applications offers flexible management options to growers by considering both bat ecology and the constraints of regional agricultural management practices…”

Read on and access the full paper at: Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment.