NCASI participating in study of bats in Coastal Plain working forests

The northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) is currently listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Nationally, this species and several others have declined in abundance due to White Nose Syndrome, a disease that affects some bat species when they hibernate in caves. 

Populations of bats, however, often do not hibernate in the southeastern Coastal Plain and caves and mines are not common in that region. Thus, bats susceptible to White Nose Syndrome may not be as greatly affected by the disease as in other regions. 

Recent research by the University of Georgia that was supported by NCASI and its member companies found that, during summer, working pine forests in the Coastal Plain support a large proportion of the bat community associated with forests of the region. Forest management activities that decreased vegetation structure, such as thinning and/or controlling midstory vegetation (e.g., fire or herbicide applications), helped maintain or increase suitability of managed pine forest stands and landscapes for many bat species. However, little is known about the winter habitat relationships of bats in general, and the northern long-eared bat in particular, in the southeastern Coastal Plain. 

To address this information gap, NCASI is collaborating in research led by Dr. Richard D. Stevens of Texas Tech University and Dr. W. Mark Ford of the U.S. Geological Survey Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to better elucidate habitat relationships of bats during winter in the lower Coastal Plain of Louisiana, Texas, and Virginia. The investigators will use acoustic sampling to relate occupancy and foraging activity of bats to characteristics of the working forest surrounding the sampling points.

Results from the study will improve understanding of how working forests can contribute to conservation of the bat community during winter, including species affected by White Nose Syndrome. Field work is scheduled to begin in November 2017 and the project will conclude in December 2019.
For more information, contact Dr. T. Bently Wigley of NCASI.  

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