The thousand-year history of the Slovak Karst inferred from pollen in bat guano inside the Domica Cave (Slovakia)


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Folia Geobotanica

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A thousand years old 105 cm deep deposit of bat guano in the Domica Cave (southern Slovakia, Slovak Karst National Park) has been discovered for science, and three samples were analysed for pollen to identify the bats’ preferred foraging habitats and for insect remains to identify their diet. The bat species concerned, Rhinolophus euryale, is rare in the area, which lies at the northern margin of its distribution. The pollen record captured alder forests between 897–1024 AD, temperate light broad-leaved oak-hornbeam forests with Quercus cerris, Fraxinus ornus, Cornus mas and Corylus avellana between 1522–1800 AD, and almost recently willow shrubs. This pattern may, however, reflect local changes in the surrounding landscape where the bats hunted. Pollen of anemophilous taxa was underrepresented (e.g. Fagus), while entomophilous taxa were overrepresented (e.g. Fraxinus ornus, Loranthus europaeus, Acer, Agrostemma githago). The phenology of the encountered pollen taxa indicates that the bats used the Domica Cave mainly as spring and summer roosts. The pollen record further indicates that the bats prefer to forage in a forest–steppe landscape with open Pannonian broadleaved forests and humid temperate riparian environments. Today, this kind of landscape does not occur further north, which may explain the northern limit of this bat species at the study site.

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