Roost selection by Mauritian tomb bats (Taphozus mauritianus) in Lilongwe city, Malawi – importance of woodland for sustainable urban planning

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Abstract

Increasing urbanisation has led to a greater use of artificial structures by bats as alternative roost sites. Despite the widespread presence of bats, roost availability may restrict their distribution and abundance in urban environments. There is limited quantitative information on the drivers of bat roost selection and roosting preferences, particularly in African bats. We explore the factors influencing roost selection in the Mauritian tomb bat (Taphozous mauritianus), within an urban landscape in Lilongwe city, Malawi. Eight building and five landscape features of roosts were compared with both adjacent and random control buildings throughout the city. Bat occupied buildings were situated closer to woodland (mean 709m) compared to random buildings (mean 1847m) but did not differ in any other landscape features explored. Roosts were situated on buildings with larger areas and taller walls, suggesting bats select features for predator-avoidance and acoustic perception when leaving the roost. Bats preferred buildings with exposed roof beams which may provide refuge from disturbance. Whilst roosts are situated more often on brick walls, this feature was also associated with landscape features, therefore its importance in roost selection is less clear. These results are indicative that T. mauritianus selects roosts at both the building and landscape level. The selectivity of T. mauritianus in relation to its roost sites implies that preferred roosts are a limited resource, and as such, conservation actions should focus on protecting roost sites and the woodland bats rely on.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0240434
JournalPLoS ONE
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2020

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