Northern Long-Eared Bat Day-Roosting and Prescribed Fire in the Central Appalachians, USA
Ford, W. Mark
Johnson, Joshua B.
Edwards, John W.
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The northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis Trovessart) is a cavity- roosting species that forages in cluttered upland and riparian forests throughout the oak-dominated Appalachian and Central Hardwoods regions. Common prior to white-nose syndrome, the population of this bat species has declined to functional extirpation in some regions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, including portions of the central Appalachians. Our long-term research in the central Appalachians has shown that maternity colonies of this species form non-random assorting networks in patches of suitable trees that result from longand short-term forest disturbance processes, and that roost loss can occur with these disturbances. Following two consecutive prescribed burns on the Fernow Experimental Forest in the central Appalachians, West Virginia, USA, in 2007 to 2008, post-fire counts of suitable black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.; the most selected species for roosting) slightly decreased by 2012. Conversely, post-fire numbers of suitable maple (Acer spp. L.), primarily red maple (Acer rubrum L.), increased by a factor of three, thereby ameliorating black locust reduction. Maternity colony network metrics such as roost degree (use) and network density for two networks in the burned compartment were similar to the single network observed in unburned forest. However, roost clustering and degree of roost centralization was greater for the networks in the burned forest area. Accordingly, the short-term effects of prescribed fire are slightly or moderately positive in impact to day-roost habitat for the northern long-eared bat in the central Appalachians from a social dynamic perspective. Listing of northern long-eared bats as federally threatened will bring increased scrutiny of immediate fire impacts from direct take as well as indirect impacts from long-term changes to roosting and foraging habitat in stands being returned to historic fire-return conditions. Unfortunately, definitive impacts will remain speculative owing to the species' current rarity and the paucity of forest stand data that considers tree condition or that adequately tracks snags spatially and temporally.