White-nose Syndrome (WNS), a wildlife health concern that has decimated cave-hibernating bat populations in eastern North America since 2006, began affecting source-caves for summer bat populations at Fort Drum, a U.S. Army installation in New York in the winter of 2007-2008. As regional die-offs of bats became evident, and Fort Drum's known populations began showing declines, we examined whether WNS-induced change in abundance patterns and seasonal timing of bat activity could be quantified using acoustical surveys, 2003-2010, at structurally uncluttered riparian-water habitats (i.e., streams, ponds, and wet meadows). As predicted, we observed significant declines in overall summer activity between pre-WNS and post-WNS years for little brown bats Myotis lucifugus, northern bats M. septentrionalis, and Indiana bats M. sodalis. We did not observe any significant change in activity patterns between pre-WNS and post-WNS years for big brown bats Eptesicus fuscus, eastern red bats Lasiurus borealis, or the small number of tri-colored bats Perimyotis subflavus. Activity of silver-haired bats Lasionycteris noctivagans increased from pre-WNS to post-WNS years. Activity levels of hoary bats Lasiurus cinereus significantly declined between pre-and post-WNS years. As a nonhibernating, migratory species, hoary bat declines might be correlated with wind-energy development impacts occurring in the same time frame rather than WNS. Intraseason activity patterns also were affected by WNS, though the results were highly variable among species. Little brown bats showed an overall increase in activity from early to late summer pre-WNS, presumably due to detections of newly volant young added to the local population. However, the opposite occurred post-WNS, indicating that reproduction among surviving little brown bats may be declining. Our data suggest that acoustical monitoring during the summer season can provide insights into species' relative abundance on the landscape as affected by the occurrence of WNS.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Nature and Landscape Conservation