Effects of free-ranging cattle and landscape complexity on bat foraging: Implications for bat conservation and livestock management
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Traditional agropastoralism increases biodiversity by maintaining habitats whose existence depends on human practices as well as by providing wildlife, including bats, with key spatial and trophic resources. Bats in farmland are crucial predators of crop pests, thus offering an economically important ecosystem service. It seems possible that bats may also provide services by feeding on insects associated with livestock. We tested whether bats forage over cattle in a traditionally managed pastoral area of central Italy, i.e. setting the bases for providing pest control services. We found that small bat species (mostly Pipistrellus spp.) foraged preferentially over livestock, and that their activity increased, but then reached a plateau or slightly decreased, for progressively larger herds. Landscape complexity also led to an increase in bat activity over livestock. Since insects attracted to cattle at night typically include flies such as mosquitoes (Culicidae) and biting midges (Ceratopogonidae), which are potentially harmful to cattle and may carry serious diseases, and that bats such as Pipistrellus spp. are important predators of such flies, we argue that bats may play a valuable pest-suppression role.
Keywords:Farming; Insectivory; Parasites; Pest suppression; Traditional pastoralism
In: Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment (2017), 241: 54-61