Scientific American checks out how fire-prevention efforts are actually apparently hurting bat populations:
In California’s Sierra Nevada ecosystem, bats have adapted to occasional blazes. But a century of fire-suppression policies has kept some areas unburned for unusually long periods, resulting in denser forests with thicker undergrowth. “We wanted to see how these shifts in how fires are burning might be influencing bat biodiversity,” says University of California, Berkeley, ecologist Zack Steel, who conducted the research while a graduate student at the University of California, Davis.
Steel and his colleagues deployed an array of microphones to count bats by recording their distinctive echolocation chirps and squeaks over four years at six sites in the Sierra Nevada. Three of the areas had recently endured fires, and three remained unburned.
Seventeen bat species call these forests home. The study revealed that eight of them tended to frequent the unburned patches, whereas 11 used the burned areas (some species visited both). “We expected to see one group of species benefiting from fire—the more open-habitat-adapted species—and another group, the more clutter-adapted species, being negatively affected by fire, preferring the unburned areas,” Steel says. “But even some of those species were occurring more often in burned areas.”
What is ideal, the researchers write, is a combination of unburned areas and ones burned at different levels of severity—which they refer to as pyrodiversity. The results were published last December in the journal Scientific Reports.