Effects of roost specialization on extinction risk in bats
Chaverri Echandi, Gloriana
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Understanding causes and consequences of ecological specialization is of major concern in conservation. Specialist species are particularly vulnerable to human activities. If their food or habitats are depleted or lost, they may not be able to exploit alternative resources, and population losses may result. We examined International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List bat data and the number of roosts used per species (accounting for phylogenetic independence) to determine whether roost specialization is correlated with extinction risk. We found a significant correlation between the IUCN Red List category and the number of roost types used. Species that use fewer roost types had a higher risk of extinction. We found that caves and similar structures were the most widely used roost types, particularly by species under some level of risk of extinction. Many critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable species used natural roosts exclusively, whereas less threatened species used natural and human-made roosts. Our results suggest that roost loss, particularly in species that rely on a single roost type, may be linked to extinction risk. Our focus on a single life history trait prevented us from determining how important this variable is for extinction risk relative to other variables, but we have taken a first step toward prioritizing conservation actions. Our results also suggest that roost specialization may exacerbate population declines due to other risk factors, such as hunting pressure or habitat loss, and thus that management actions to preserve species under risk of extinction should prioritize protection of roosting sites.
- Biología