Implementing and assessing the efficacy of the North American Bat Monitoring Program
Bats are under threat from habitat loss, energy development, and the disease white-nose syndrome; therefore, an efficient and effective means to monitor bat populations is needed. The North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) was initiated in 2015 to provide standardized, large-scale monitoring to benefit bat biologists, managers, and policy makers. Given the recency of this program, our first objective was to determine the efficacy of implementing NABat. Further, because the probability of detecting a bat varies among species and survey conditions, our second objective was to determine factors affecting detection probabilities of bats using NABat acoustic surveys. We conducted surveys across South Carolina from mid-May through July 2015 and 2016. To determine efficacy of NABat, we compared species detections with historical known distributions and predicted distributions based on environmental occupancy models. To determine factors that affected detection probability, we evaluated support for predictive detection models for each species or species grouping. In general, we found that predicted distributions closely matched known distributions. However, we detected some species in ≤50% of cells within their ranges and others outside their ranges, suggesting NABat may also reveal new information about species distributions. Most species had higher detection probabilities at stationary points than mobile transects, but the influence of interrupted surveys, environmental conditions (e.g., temperature, rainfall, and wind) and habitat conditions often varied among species. Overall, our results suggest NABat is an effective and efficient method for monitoring many bat species, but we suggest that future efforts account for species-specific biological and behavioral characteristics influencing detection probability.