Caves and karst are biodiversity hotspots in terms of endemism patterns, yet they receive little conservation attention which leads to continuous exploitations in this ecosystem. To best maintain and protect current biodiversity it is essential to develop priorities for conservation. However, making conservation decisions to protect areas often involves conflicting ideas, and the limited funding and capacity hinder the effective selection of priorities. Within cave systems, bats are key providers of energy for other cave-dependent species.
The absence of a uniform procedure to identify important bat caves prompted the development of the ‘Bat Cave Vulnerability Index’. The goals of the development of the index are to provide an important component of many local and regional action plans. Here, using various cave biological, landscape and anthropogenic features we analyze both the biotic value and threat of a frequently overlooked ecosystem. This index introduces an inclusive biodiversity index that covers both the species diversity and the condition of the habitat, both are important elements in making conservation, management and policy-making initiatives both at regional and global scales.
The index we have developed is specifically tailored for the conservation of caves, karsts, and underground habitats, and unlike former indices, it finely blends both biotic and abiotic perspectives to understand value, status, and threat. All of the mentioned habitats are important for many species and but receive little conservation attention, as evidenced by continuous exploitation in different regions. Another interesting feature of the index we developed is its easy-to-use equation, which we intentionally made for rapid local assessments, whilst simultaneously providing something standardized, comparable and useful in assigning value and threat.
The Biotic Potential is represented by various species diversity and rarity measurements. The Biotic Vulnerability is represented by the cave’s landscape features and the presence of a human-induced disturbance (See the Assessment Approach of BCVI).
The method we have developed provides a first step in developing priorities which maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of conservation. Furthermore, the multiple criteria and accessibility of its components, this scheme can be adapted to prioritize caves in a wider scale in the tropics, as well as in other regions with diverse cave ecosystems.
Progress and gaps
A pilot testing in the Philippines was conducted to test the index. The testing confirmed the index can effectively identify bat caves for conservation prioritization. It is revealed that the biotic potential variables quantifying that presence of rare and threatened species played an important role in the prioritization of caves. In addition, the presence of anthropogenic activities and landscape features were also important factors in cave conservation prioritization (Tanalgo et al. in review).
Currently, we will attempt to apply in a wider scope –regional and global assessment. Currently, we have 600+ bat cave records (Figure 1) and collaborations with countries like Brazil, Romania, Colombia, Spain, and other regions outside the tropics. However, we are currently needing more information to comprehensively assess many areas. In the Philippine for example, we only have 5 datasets at the present and more information is needed to determine many more bat cave habitats.
In connection to this, we would like to solicit information about your previous and present cave bat studies including species population and diversity, and the cave geophysical information. The data you will provide will be processed to determine the vulnerability and prioritization status of the caves, which you can further use in any research and policy purposes. A spatially-explicit map identifying caves with the highest conservation and other information relevant to the caves and cave bats will be provided to you afterward. We have uploaded the datasheet (in Excel form) to enter Bat diversity (Biotic Potential) and a presence of anthropogenic threats and other landscape features (Biotic Vulnerability).
The BCVI Database Download here BCVI database
We believe that a strong and effective conservation is not a one-man job, thus we are open for collaboration and co-authorship to any paper, manuscripts, and policies yielded from the data consolidated depending on the extent of your contribution and effort.
We assure you that all your data and information provided will be cited and acknowledged accordingly.
Please contract Krizler C. Tanalgo (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Prof. Dr. Alice C. Hughes (email@example.com) for further information.