Predicting bat distributions and diversity hotspots in Southern Africa


Cooper-Bohannon R, Rebelo H, Jones G, Cotterill F, Monadjem A, Schoeman MC, Taylor P & Park K (2016) Predicting bat distributions and diversity hotspots in Southern Africa. Hystrix, the Italian Journal of Mammalogy, 27 (1).

Species distribution models were used to predict bat species richness across southern Africa and drivers of these spatial patterns. We also identified species richness within each biotic zone and the distributions of species considered of high conservation priority. We used this information to highlight conservation priorities for bats in southern Africa (defined here as between the latitudes of 8°S, slightly north of Zambia, to the southern tip of Africa 34°S, an area of approximately 9,781,840 km2). We used Maximum entropy modelling (Maxent) to model habitat suitability for 58 bat species in order to determine the key eco-geographical variables influencing their distributions. The potential distribution of each bat species was affected by different eco-geographic variables but in general, water availability (both temporary and permanent), seasonal precipitation, vegetation and karst (caves/limestone) areas were the most important factors. The highest levels of species richness were found mainly in the eastern dry savanna area and some areas of wet savanna. Of the species considered to be of high priority due to a combination of restricted distributions or niches and/or endemism (7 fruit bats, 23 cave-dwellers, 18 endemic and near-endemic, 14 niche-restricted and 15 range-restricted), nine species were considered to be at most risk. We found that range-restricted species were commonly found in areas with low species richness; therefore, conservation decisions need to take into account not only species richness but also species considered to be particularly vulnerable across the biogeographical area of interest.

Chiroptera; biogeographical strata; conservation priorities; Maxent; species distribution modelling; southern Africa

Hystrix, the Italian Journal of Mammalogy: Volume 27, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/2016
Publication date online31/07/2016
Date accepted by journal01/06/2016
PublisherAssociazione Teriologica Italiana