Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Bechstein's Bat Is More Mediterranean Than Originally Thought

May 27, 2013 — Although the Bechstein's bat is regarded as a Euro-Siberian species, a study by researchers in the UPV/EHU's Department of Zoology and Animal Cell Biology has revealed that the historical transformation of part of its original habitat rather than bioclimatic reasons could be responsible for this distribution. This research has been published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management.
(Credit: Image courtesy of Basque Research)

The Bechstein's Bat (Myotis bechsteinii) has a broad distribution: from the Iberian Peninsula to the Caucasus, in the East, and as far as southern Scandinavia, in the north. Yet it is regarded as a rare species throughout its distribution area. "This scarcity contrasts with its abundance in the fossil record of the late Pleistocene and Holocene," says Dr María Napal, leading author of the paper published in Forest Ecology and Management. The fossil record shows that the start and consolidation of its decline coincided with the deforestation caused by the intensification of agriculture, and are also linked to colder temperatures and greater humidity.

This has been cited on very few occasions in the Mediterranean area, but recent studies show that it could be locally abundant in certain localities.However, in the north of the Peninsula, where the climate and vegetation are more similar to those of Central Europe, their centre of distribution, it is much more difficult to find them. "That led us to revisit the traditional dogma that the M. bechsteinii is a Euro-Siberian species, restricted to the temperate forests of Central and Western Europe, and to ask whether its current distribution could respond more to the history of deciduous forestloss in part of its original range," explains Napal. "In fact,during the Holocene the vegetation evolved differently in the Mediterranean compared with the rest of Europe.In the Mediterranean, the intensity of human activity, linked to great aridity, led to the substitution of the deciduous vegetation by the typical xerophytic vegetation."

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