Indiana bat summer maternity distribution: effects of current and future climates
Temperate zone bats may be more sensitive to climate change than other groups of mammals because many aspects of their ecology are closely linked to temperature. However, few studies have tried to predict the responses of bats to climate change. The Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) is a federally listed endangered species that is found in the eastern United States. The northerly distribution of Indiana bat summer maternity colonies relative to their winter distributions suggests that warmer climates may result in a shift in their summer distribution. Our objectives were to determine the climatic factors associated with Indiana bat maternity range and forecast changes in the amount and distribution of the range under future climates. We used Maxent to model the suitable climatic habitat of Indiana bats under current conditions and four future climate forecasts for 2021–30, 2031–40, 2041–50, and 2051–60. Average maximum temperature across the maternity season (May–August) was the most important variable in the model of current distribution of Indiana bat maternity colonies with suitability decreasing considerably above 28ºC. The areal extent of the summer maternity distribution of Indiana bats was forecasted to decline and be concentrated in the northeastern United States and Appalachian Mountains; the western part of the current maternity range (Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio) was forecasted to become climatically unsuitable under most future climates. Our models suggest that high temperatures may be a factor in roost-site selection at the regional scale and in the future, may also be an important variable at the microhabitat scale. When behavioral changes fail to mitigate the effects of high temperature, range shifts are likely to occur. Thus, habitat management for Indiana bat maternity colonies in the northeastern United States and Appalachian Mountains of the Southeast is critical as these areas will most likely serve as climatic refugia.