Seasonally-dynamic presence-only species distribution models for a cryptic migratory bat impacted by wind energy development

Product Type: 

Journal Article

Year: 

2015

Author(s): 

Hayes, M.A., P.M. Cryan, and M.B. Wunder

Suggested Citation: 

Hayes, M.A., P.M. Cryan, and M.B. Wunder. 2015. Seasonally-dynamic presence-only species distribution models for a cryptic migratory bat impacted by wind energy development. PLoS One. doi:10:e0132599.

Understanding seasonal distribution and movement patterns of animals that migrate long distances is an essential part of monitoring and conserving their populations. Compared to migratory birds and other more conspicuous migrants, we know very little about the movement patterns of many migratory bats. Hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus), a cryptic, wide-ranging, long-distance migrant, comprise a substantial proportion of the tens to hundreds of thousands of bat fatalities estimated to occur each year at wind turbines in North America. We created seasonally-dynamic species distribution models (SDMs) from 2,753 museum occurrence records collected over five decades in North America to better understand the seasonal geographic distributions of hoary bats. We used 5 SDM approaches: logistic regression, multivariate adaptive regression splines, boosted regression trees, random forest, and maximum entropy and consolidated outputs to generate ensemble maps. These maps represent the first formal hypotheses for sex- and season-specific hoary bat distributions. Our results suggest that North American hoary bats winter in regions with relatively long growing seasons where temperatures are moderated by proximity to oceans, and then move to the continental interior for the summer. SDMs suggested that hoary bats are most broadly distributed in autumn—the season when they are most susceptible to mortality from wind turbines; this season contains the greatest overlap between potentially suitable habitat and wind energy facilities. Comparing wind-turbine fatality data to model outputs could test many predictions, such as ‘risk from turbines is highest in habitats between hoary bat summering and wintering grounds’. Although future field studies are needed to validate the SDMs, this study generated well-justified and testable hypotheses of hoary bat migration patterns and seasonal distribution.

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