Bat Response To Carolina Bays and Wetland Restoration in the Southeastern U.S. Coastal Plain
Bat activity in the southeastern United States is concentrated over riparian areas and wetland habitats. The restoration and creation of wetlands for mitigation purposes is becoming common in the Southeast. Understanding the effects of these restoration efforts on wetland flora and fauna is thus becoming increasingly important. Because bats (Order: Chiroptera) consist of many species that are of conservation concern and are commonly associated with wetland and riparian habitats in the Southeast (making them a good general indicator for the condition of wetland habitats), we monitored bat activity over restored and reference Carolina bays surrounded by pine savanna (Pinus spp.) or mixed pine-hardwood habitat types at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. In order to determine how wetland restoration efforts affected the bat community, we monitored bat activity above drained Carolina bays pre- and post-restoration. Our results indicate that bat activity was greater over reference (i.e., undrained) than drained bays prior to the restorative efforts. One year following combined hydrologic and vegetation treatment, however, bat activity was generally greater over restored than reference bays. Bat activity was also greater over both reference and restored bays than in random, forested interior locations. We found significantly more bat activity after restoration than prior to restoration for all but one species in the treatment bays, suggesting that Carolina bay restoration can have almost immediate positive impacts on bat activity.