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Title: The contribution of fruit bats (Pteropus rufus) to seed dispersal and forest regeneration in Madagascar
Author: Oleksy, Ryszard Zbigniew
ISNI:       0000 0004 5355 1076
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2014
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The maintenance and restoration of tropical forest biodiversity is a global priority. Madagascar, a biodiversity 'hots pot', is unique, yet highly threatened due to ongoing deforestation. In this thesis I focus on the Madagascar flying fox (Pteropus rufus), the largest Malagasy fruit bat, and its role in forest regeneration and maintenance. I use ecological niche modelling to indicate the most suitable roosting habitat for the species and predict changes in distribution based on future climate change scenarios. Future predictions suggested that by 2080 there will be significant shifts in the distribution of P. rufus towards the central, more upland part of the island. To evaluate the role of these bats in forest regeneration, I compare germination rates of bat-processed and unprocessed seeds. Furthermore, I conduct high-resolution Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking of P. rufus to document their home ranges, movement, foraging patterns and habitat preferences. The results indicate that passage through the gut of bats increased the germination rate of defecated fig seeds and bats were able to disperse seeds over large areas and into areas cleared of trees. The bats were recorded to fly up to 66.5 km per night at a maximum speed of 17.04 m/s and the home range of all of the 15 tagged bats was over 58,000 ha. Additionally, the bats preferred feeding in forest remnants hence increasing the chances of seed deposition in such habitats, and ultimately their regeneration. Pteropus rufus bats have short gut retention times (GRTs) (estimated at 12 min) but are sometimes able to retain seeds for over 20 h. Through feeding observations in the wild, captive feeding trials and GPS tracking, seed shadow maps were created. The maps indicated that bats produced extensive seed shadow webs when feeding on figs within their large forging areas. Although P. rufus plays an important role in the early succession of tropical forest in Madagascar, it is threatened by hunting and by roost disturbance. This study provides new insights into the ecology and behaviour of the Madagascar flying fox.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available