Relationship between urbanization and bat community structure in national parks of the southeastern U.S.
Urbanization and development are predicted to increase considerably in the United States over the next several decades, and this is expected to result in large-scale habitat loss, fragmentation and loss of wildlife species. Thus, natural parks and preserves are becomingly increasingly important in the conservation of regional biodiversity. We used mist-nets and AnabatII acoustic detectors to survey bats in 10 national parks in the southeastern U.S. and examined the relationship between bat community structure and development in the surrounding 5 km. We predicted that species richness would increase with park size and that species richness and evenness would decrease with development. Species richness was not related to development or any other landscape characteristics including park size. In contrast, species evenness declined with increasing development. Percent Developed land in the surrounding 5 km area was the only variable that entered into the stepwise regression model. The decrease in species evenness in the urban parks was due to the dominance of big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) in these parks. The percentage of big brown bats in our captures was positively related to percent Developed land in the surrounding area. Our data suggest that urban parks may be important for conserving regional bat biodiversity. However, the low species evenness in these parks suggests that some bat species may be susceptible to the effects of urbanization and may be extirpated over time. Thus, management of urban as well as rural parks should strive to conserve as much bat roosting and foraging habitat as possible.