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Impact of artificial lights on foraging of insectivorous bats in a Costa Rican cloud forest

  • Tanner M. Frank (a1), Whitney C. Gabbert (a2), Johel Chaves-Campos (a3) and Richard K. LaVal (a3)


Determining the effects of light pollution on tropical bat communities is important for understanding community assembly rules in urban areas. Studies from temperate regions suggest that, among aerial insectivorous bats, fast-flying species that forage in the open are attracted to artificial lights, whereas slow-flying species that forage in cluttered environments avoid those lights. We measured aerial insectivore responses to light pollution in a tropical cloud forest to test this hypothesis. Bat echolocation was recorded at 20 pairs of light and dark sites in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Foraging activity was higher at artificially lighted sites than dark sites near the new moon, especially around blue-white fluorescent lighting. Most recorded bat species showed increased or unchanged activity in response to light, including some slow-flying and edge-foraging bats. This finding suggests that, contrary to the evaluated hypothesis, flight speed and foraging mode are not sufficient to determine bat responses to artificial lights in the tropics. Two bat species showed decreased activity at light sites, and a low species evenness was recorded around lights, particularly fluorescent lights, compared with dark sites. As in the temperate zone, light pollution in the tropics seems to concentrate certain bat species around human-inhabited areas, potentially shifting community structure.

Determinar los efectos de la contaminación lumínica en las comunidades de murciélagos es importante para entender las reglas de ensamblaje de comunidades en áreas urbanas. Los estudios de las zonas templadas permiten plantear la hipótesis que los murciélagos insectívoros que vuelan rápidamente y que regularmente se alimentan en áreas abiertas son atraídos a las luces artificiales, mientras que los murciélagos que vuelan lento y que se alimentan en áreas con obstrucciones evitan dichas luces. Medimos la repuesta de los murciélagos insectívoros a la contaminación lumínica en un bosques nuboso tropical para evaluar esta hipótesis. Las ecolocaciones de los murciélagos fueron grabados en 20 pares de sitios con o sin luces alrededor de Monteverde, Costa Rica. La actividad de forrajeo fue mayor en los lugares iluminados artificialmente cerca de la luna nueva y especialmente alrededor de luces fluorescentes blanco-azul. La mayoría de las especies de murciélagos aumentó o no cambió su actividad en la presencia de luces, incluyendo especies que vuelan lento en el sotobosque fueron atraídas a las luces. Este resultado no apoya la hipótesis evaluada, y sugiere que aparte de velocidad y método alimenticio, hay más rasgos funcionales determinando la repuesta de los murciélagos insectívoros a las luces artificiales en el trópico. Los sitios iluminados artificialmente, especialmente con luces fluorescentes, mostraron una distribución menos equitativa en la abundancia de especies con respecto a sitios oscuros, y dos especies de murciélagos mostraron actividad disminuida en sitios iluminados. Al igual que en zonas templadas, la contaminación lumínica en el trópico parece concentrar solo algunas especies de murciélagos alrededor de las áreas habitadas por humanos, potencialmente cambiando la estructura de la comunidad.


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Impact of artificial lights on foraging of insectivorous bats in a Costa Rican cloud forest

  • Tanner M. Frank (a1), Whitney C. Gabbert (a2), Johel Chaves-Campos (a3) and Richard K. LaVal (a3)


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