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Scale‐dependent effects of forest restoration on Neotropical fruit bats

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© 2015 Society for Ecological Restoration. Neotropical fruit bats (family Phyllostomidae) facilitate forest regeneration on degraded lands by dispersing shrub and tree seeds. Accordingly, if fruit bats can be attracted to restoration sites, seed dispersal could be enhanced. We surveyed bat communities at 10 sites in southern Costa Rica to evaluate whether restoration treatments attracted more fruit bats if trees were planted on degraded farmlands in plantations or island configurations versus natural regeneration. We also compared the relative influence of tree cover at local and landscape spatial scales on bat abundances. We captured 68% more fruit bat individuals in tree plantations as in controls, whereas tree island plots were intermediate. Bat activity also responded to landscape tree cover within a 200-m radius of restoration plots, with greater abundance but lower species richness in deforested landscapes. Fruit bat captures in controls and tree island plots declined with increasing landscape tree cover, but captures in plantations were relatively constant. Individual species responded differentially to tree cover measured at different spatial scales. We attribute restoration effects primarily to habitat structure rather than food resources because no planted trees produced fruits regularly eaten by bats. The magnitude of tree planting effects on fruit bats was less than previous studies have found for frugivorous birds, suggesting that bats may play a particularly important role in dispersing seeds in heavily deforested and naturally regenerating areas. Nonetheless, our results show that larger tree plantations in more intact landscapes are more likely to attract diverse fruit bats, potentially enhancing seed dispersal.

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