Water and elevation are more important than burn severity in predicting bat activity at multiple scales in a post-wildfire landscape

Clarissa A. Starbuck, Erin S. Considine, Carol L. Chambers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Bats are among the most widespread mammals on Earth, and are subject to habitat change, loss, and other disturbances such as fire. Wildfire causes rapid changes in vegetation that affect habitat use. However, the spatial scale at which these changes affect bats depends on their use of habitat elements. Three years post wildfire, we assessed how burn severity, water, landform type, elevation, vegetation type, and roads affected use by bats of a forest landscape at multiple spatial scales. We deployed acoustic detectors at randomly selected locations within a 217,712 ha wildfire boundary in Arizona. We classified echolocation calls to species or group and calculated an activity index by adjusting the calls per hour. We conducted a multi-scale analysis of landscape structure and composition around each location from a 90 to 5760 m radius. No scale was selected preferentially by any species or group. Stream density and elevation range were more important predictors for species groups than burn severity. When burn severity was a predictor, agile species had higher activity in areas that were unburned or had low severity burn. A heterogeneous landscape composed of high, medium, and low burn severity patches within a forest altered by large wildfires provided habitat for different bat species, but water density and range in elevation were more important for predicting bat habitat use than fire severity in this arid landscape. More than one spatial scale, representing local to landscape levels, should be considered in managing habitat for bats. In arid areas, such as the western United States, maintaining reliable water sources is important for bats. Managing these factors at multiple spatial scales will benefit bat species with different wing morphologies, echolocation call types, and habitat selections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0231170
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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