Saturday, 14 February 2015

Bat populations in post-wildfire habitats

February 14, 2015

Northern Arizona University

Researchers are measuring bat populations in post-wildfire forests of Arizona. Bats are considered an indicator species of habitat health.

Two NAU researchers are learning more about how bats are faring in the post-wildfire Ponderosa pine forests, of which 3.2 million acres have been scorched during the past decade. Because bats help pollenate plants, aid in reforestation and maintain ecosystem balance by eating large quantities of insects, scientists believe it is imperative to understand the effects of wildfire on bat habitats.

Forestry professor Carol Chambers and graduate student Erin Saunders have been tracking bats since the 2011 Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona. The state's largest wildfire burned 849 square miles of forest.

The scientists discovered bat species are reacting differently to post-wildfire habitats, some avoid the burned areas and other species seem to prefer the wide-open spaces left in the wildfire's wake.

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