Caves are used by bats for a variety of reasons, including courtship and mating, raising young, and hibernating. Bats seek shelter during the day and disperse from these sites to forage for food at night. In addition, many insectivorous species retreat to caves between feeding bouts, where they may cull the wings and heads of insects that were captured while foraging. Frugivorous species sometimes transport large fruits to caves where they cull soft pulp and where they can reduce the risks of predation. In temperate regions, some species that roost in foliage or tree cavities in the warm months hibernate in caves during the winter.
However, human activities and exploitation threaten many cave and karst ecosystems and the endemic species within these systems (Clements et al. 2006; Ball 2002; Niu et al. 2007). In Southeast Asia, conservationists have agreed to include cave and cave bats as conservation priorities (Kingston 2010). Therefore, it is urgent to identify and protect threatened cave and karst system to circumvent current species declines of many species (Beyben & Townsend 2005).
I and my team from the Landscape Ecology Group, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.R. China led by Prof. Dr. Alice Catherine Hughes, developed a ‘Bat Cave Vulnerability Index’ (BCVI) which attempts to create a standard index for evaluating bat caves for conservation prioritization. The index is a rapid assessment tool designed to identify priority caves for the conservation of bats and caves. This facilitates rapid assessment of bat cave where local experts can effectively monitor cave sites, and easily convey management priorities to non-experts, such as town councilors and forest/cave guards.
We integrate cave biotic and geophysical characteristics to measure the Biotic Potential (Bp) and Biotic Vulnerability (Bv) of caves respectively. The cave biotic potential is assessed using information from species diversity and their attributes, while biotic vulnerability is measured by assessing the geophysical features and human-activities in caves.
The index was pilot tested using data sets from the Philippines. Our testing clearly showed that the index’s components were relevant in rapidly assessing the status of bat caves for further conservation prioritization and management.Currently, we are gathering regional cave data from the Philippines but we are planning to expand in other areas in the tropics especially throughout Asia. The data we consolidated will be used to identify areas with highest bat diversity facing the largest threat from human-induced activities. We aim to produce spatially-explicit maps indicating caves status that will be further useful in forging regional to global policies.
For more information please visit: Bat Cave Vulnerability and Conservation Mapping Initiative
Krizler Cejuela. Tanalgo
Graduate Student @ Landscape Ecology Group
Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences
Mobile #: +63 9951172953