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Title: Conservation biology of the barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus) : applications of spatial modelling, ecology and molecular analysis of diet
Author: Zeale, Matthew Richard Kemish
ISNI:       0000 0004 2707 9003
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2011
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This study uses a multidisciplinary approach to fill current knowledge gaps in the ecology and conservation requirements of a rare bat, the barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus). Spatial modelling was used to evaluate the environmental parameters that dictate where the species is able to persist in the UK and to identify areas of high conservation value. Models indicated that B. barbastellus is highly dependent on large areas of native mature woodland and is limited in its distribution predominantly by summer climate, although a number of other environmental factors also appear to be important. Ground-validation of model predictions resulted in the discovery of three new maternity colonies. Radiotracking was used to investigate roost preferences, home range use and foraging habitat requirements. Preferences for roosting in old or dead oak (Quercus spp. ) trees were identified, although potentially any tree supporting a suitable roost cavity may be used. Trees located near to rivers or streams within unmanaged broadleaved woodland were favoured. Bats selected riparian and broadleaved woodland habitats above all others for foraging, presumably to maximise encounter rates with preferred moth prey. Unimproved grassland and field boundary features were also important components of the foraging environment. The range spans and home range areas of individual bats varied enormously. Although the average range span of colonial females was 8 km, a few bats travelled up to 20 km to reach core foraging areas. Colony members showed distinct spatial organisation, with minimal overlap of foraging areas and high fidelity to foraging sites. A novel molecular technique for diet analysis based on DNA barcoding was designed and tested to improve the detection and resolution of prey within the faeces of insectivorous bats. The sensitivity and taxonomic resolution of the molecular method was far superior to conventional morphological techniques. Prey items are now readily identifiable at the species level, providing new perspectives on the dietary requirements and trophic ecology of bats. Both DNA-based and morphological techniques were used to determine the diet of B. barbastellus. In total, eighty-nine different prey items were identified and nearly all were resolved to species. The results showed that B. barbastellus feeds almost exclusively on moths that have ears, prompting questions about how the species is able to bypass the hearing defences of prey. The implications of all the findings for B. barbastellus conservation are discussed and management recommendations are made. i
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available