Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
Optimizing conservation strategies for Mexican free-tailed bats: a population viability and ecosystem services approach
Wiederholt, R, Lopez-Hoffman, L, Svancara, C, MCCracken, G, Thogmartin WG, Diffendorfer, JE, Mattsonm B, Bagstad, K, Cryan, P, Russel, A, Semmens, D, Medellin, RA, 2015, Optimizing conservation strategies for Mexican free-tailed bats: a population viability and ecosystem services approach. Biodiversity and Conservation. v24, i1, p 63-82, DOI 10.1007/s10531-014-0790-7
Conservation planning can be challenging due to the need to balance biological concerns about population viability with social concerns about the benefits biodiversity provide to society, often while operating under a limited budget. Methods and tools that help prioritize conservation actions are critical for the management of at-risk species. Here, we use a multi-attribute utility function to assess the optimal maternity roosts to conserve for maintaining the population viability and the ecosystem services of a single species, the Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana). Mexican free-tailed bats provide ecosystem services such as insect pest-suppression in agricultural areas and recreational viewing opportunities, and may be threatened by climate change and development of wind energy. We evaluated each roost based on five attributes: the maternity roost’s contribution to population viability, the pest suppression ecosystem services to the surrounding area provided by the bats residing in the roost, the ecotourism value of the roost, the risks posed to each roost structure, and the risks posed to the population of bats residing in each roost. We compared several scenarios that prioritized these attributes differently, hypothesizing that the set of roosts with the highest rankings would vary according to the conservation scenario. Our results indicate that placing higher values on different roost attributes (e.g. population importance over ecosystem service value) altered the roost rankings. We determined that the values placed on various conservation objectives are an important determinant of habitat planning.