Guild-level responses of bats to habitat conversion in a lowland Amazonian rainforest: Species composition and biodiversity

Michael R. Willig, Steven J. Presley, Jean Luc Plante, Christopher P. Bloch, Sergio Solari, Victor Pacheco, Scott C. Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Landscape modification represents one of the most severe threats to biodiversity from local to global scales. Conversion of forest to agricultural production generally results in patches of habitat that subdivide or isolate populations, alter the behavior of species, modify interspecific interactions, reduce biodiversity, and compromise ecosystem processes. Moreover, conversion may increase exposure of humans to zoonoses to which they would otherwise rarely be exposed. We evaluated the effects of forest conversion to agriculture, and its subsequent successional dynamics, on bat communities in a region of the Amazon that was predominantly closed-canopy rainforest. Based on a nonmanipulative experiment, we quantified differences in species composition, community structure, and taxonomic biodiversity among closed-canopy forest (bosque), agricultural lands (chacra), and secondary forest (purma) for two phyllostomid guilds (frugivores and gleaning animalivores) during the wet and dry seasons. Responses were complex and guild-specific. For frugivores, species composition (species abundance distributions) differed between all possible pairs of habitats in both wet and dry seasons. For gleaning animalivores, species composition differed between all possible pairs of habitats in the dry season, but no differences characterized the wet season. Ecological structure (rank abundance distributions) differed among habitats in guild-specific and season-specific manners. For frugivores, mean diversity, evenness, and dominance were greater in bosque than in purma; mean dominance was greater in bosque than in chacra, but local rarity was greater in chacra than in bosque, and no differences were manifest between purma and chacra. For gleaning animalivores, mean diversity and evenness were greater in bosque than in purma, but no differences were manifest between chacra and bosque, or between purma and chacra. Such results have important implications for management, conservation, and the epidemiology of zoonotic diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-238
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 28 Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was conducted as part of an NIH grant to evaluate bats as reservoirs for arboviruses; this required the collection of blood and tissues. Consequently, up to 20 individuals of each species at each plot in each season were sacrificed and prepared as standard museum specimens. The resultant specimens were used as a reference collection to verify species identifications. Specimens were deposited in the Museo de Historia Natural of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos and in the Natural Science Research Laboratory of Texas Tech University. Individuals of abundant species (primarily Carollia spp.) beyond the first 20 captures were released after identification to species. Before release, each individual was marked by fur trimming to prevent it from being counted more than once in estimates of abundance during a particular season. We followed the systematic recommendations of Simmons (2005) for bat taxa in lowland Amazonia, except for recognizing Carollia benkeithi (Solari and Baker 2006) as distinct from Car. Castanea, Platyrrhinus incarum as distinct from P. helleri (Velazco et al. 2010), Gardnernycteris as a distinct genus from Mimon (Hurtado and Pacheco 2014), and in recognizing Micronycterinae, Glyphonycterinae, and Rhinophyllinae as subfamilies of phyllostomid bats (Baker et al. 2016). Research involving live animals followed the guidelines for the capture, handling, and care of mammals approved by the American Society of Mammalogists (Sikes et al. 2016) and was approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee of Texas Tech University (ACUC# 01084-03). Additional details about the study area and field methods are available in Willig et al. (2007).

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grant AI049725 from the National Institutes of Health through the joint National Science Foundation—National Institutes of Health Program on the Ecology of Infectious Disease. The offices of the Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales and CITES-Peru of the Ministerio de Agricultura provided administrative assistance. In addition, the Museo de Historia Natural and the Departamento de Mastozoología of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos provided personnel and considerable logistic support. The Department of Biological Sciences and the Natural Science Research Laboratory of Texas Tech University also provided assistance. For assistance in the field or laboratory, we thank J. Amanzo, A. Chavez, W. Chavez, C. Chung, C. Dick, C. Hice, B. Klingbeil, U. Paredes, J. Rios, W. Rojas, W. Sanchez, P. Velazco, M. Villalobos, C. Valderrama, and S. Yanoviak. Support during the analysis and composition phases of the research was provided by the Center for Environmental Sciences & Engineering at the University of Connecticut. The manuscript benefited from comments by anonymous reviewers and the Associate Editor. We thank C. López-González for translating the abstract into Spanish.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Society of Mammalogists.


  • Chiroptera
  • Neotropics
  • agriculture
  • biodiversity
  • frugivore
  • gleaning animalivore
  • habitat conversion
  • species composition
  • successional forest


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