Assessing the Long-term Impacts of White-nose Syndrome on Bat Communities Using Acoustic Surveys at Fort Drum Military Installation  

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Virginia Tech


With declines in abundance and changing distribution of White-nose Syndrome (WNS)-affected bat species, increased reliance on acoustic monitoring is now the new "normal". As such, the ability to accurately identify individual bat species with acoustic identification programs has become increasingly important. Additionally, how bat distribution and habitat associations have changed at the local to sub-landscape scale in the post WNS environment is important to understand. The significance of these changes, relative to bat activity, may be based on the species-specific susceptibility to WNS. We used data collected from Fort Drum Military Installation, New York from the summers of 2003-2017 to analyze the accuracy of acoustic software programs, and assess the changes in relative bat activity, occupancy, and distribution induced by WNS.

Our results indicate that continued acoustic monitoring of bat species, such as the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) in the Northeast, to assess ongoing temporal and spatial changes, habitat associations, and as a guide to direct future mist-netting should rely more on relative activity as the metric of choice. Furthermore, the continuous spread of WNS across North America will have strong negative effects on bat populations and communities, this study points to how individual species (both impacted and non-impacted) will respond to WNS. We believe that our results can help users choose automated software and MLE thresholds more appropriate for their needs to accurately address potential changes in communities of bat species due to impacts of WNS or other factors.



Acoustic monitoring, Anabat, automated acoustic identification software programs, GIS, Myotis lucifugus, Myotis septentrionalis, Myotis sodalis, occupancy model, relative activity, white-nose syndrome