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Caves and other subterranean sites such as mines are critical to the survival of hundreds of bat species worldwide, since they often provide shelter for most of a nation’s bat fauna. In the temperate zone, caves provide roosts for hibernation and for some species, breeding in summer, whereas in warmer regions, they support high species richness year round and enormous colonies that maintain substantial ecosystem services. Due to the solubility of the substrate, the highest densities of caves occur in karst landscapes. Given their importance for bats, relatively few studies have investigated factors involved in cave selection, although current evidence suggests that the density and size of caves are the best predictors of species diversity and population sizes. Thermal preferences have been established for some cave-dwelling species as well as their vulnerability to disturbance, particularly during hibernation and reproduction. Growth in limestone quarrying and cave tourism industries worldwide severely threatens cave-dwelling bats, in addition to loss of foraging habitat, hunting for bushmeat, incidental disturbance and disruptive guano harvesting. Apparent declines of cave bats in Europe and North America also pose serious concerns, as do global climate change predictions. The main conservation response to threats to cave bats in these continents has been gating, but this remains relatively untested as a means of protecting colonies in other regions. Research on sustainable harvesting of bats as bushmeat and their responses to different types of human disturbance at caves and loss of surrounding foraging habitats is required. More caves of outstanding importance for bats at national and international levels also require protection.
Karst Cave, Cave Tourism, Incidental Disturbance, Karstic Cafe, Eidolon Helvum
Furey, Neil M. and Racey, Paul A., "Conservation Ecology of Cave Bats" (2016). KIP Articles. 1160.