California Bats Thrive in Forests Recovering From Wildfires

From Smithsonian Magazine
March 10, 2020

ire suppression has been used as a forest management tool for decades, but a growing body of research shows that California’s forest ecosystems have evolved to live with, and even rely on, some amount of seasonal wildfire. A recent study published in Scientific Reports adds to that knowledge, finding that bat populations are doing better in areas recently affected by fire, compared to areas that grown thick from years of fire suppression.

The research, led by ecologist Zack Steel of University of California, Berkeley, focused on bats in the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range in central and eastern California. Of the 17 bat species the team studied, some are known to prefer wide open areas while others can maneuver in a cluttered canopy. Eight species were found in unburned areas, and 11 fluttered above the fire-affected ones. Only one species’ population fell after fires.

“We expected to see one group of species benefiting from fire—the more open-habitat-adapted species—and another group, the more clutter-adapted species, being negatively affected by fire, preferring the unburned areas,” Steel tells Scientific Americans Jason Goldman. “But even some of those species were occurring more often in burned areas.”

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