Chiropteran metacommunity structure in the Atlantic Forest of South America

Richard D. Stevens, John D. Stuhler, Jenna R. Grimshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Aim: Spatial patterns of local species composition are shaped by dispersal ability. Here we examine the effects of dispersal ability on metacommunity structure of bats throughout the Atlantic Forest of South America considering differences among communities, functional groups and species regarding environmental, spatial and connectivity-related drivers of composition. We also examined phylogenetic and ecological correlates, such as incidence (i.e. frequency of occurrence across sites) and wing morphology, of the degree to which species respond to spatial and environmental drivers. Location: Atlantic Forest of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Taxon: Phyllostomid bats. Methods: Data from the Atlantic Bats dataset were compiled for 39 species at 120 sites. Variation was partitioned into pure environmental, pure space, pure connectivity, joint and unaccounted variation fractions. Redundancy analyses or linear regression determined amount of variation in variation fractions that was accounted for by phylogeny or ecological characteristics of species. Results: The metacommunity of Atlantic Forest phyllostomid bats was significantly structured by environmental, space and connectivity characteristics. Animalivore, nectarivores and sanguinivore species composition was significantly related only to connectivity. Frugivores exhibited structure that was significantly related to all three kinds of characteristics (pure environmental, pure spatial and pure connectivity) and similar to that of the overall metacommunity. Species-specific responses to environmental, spatial and connectivity drivers were variable but exhibited strong affinities related to phylogeny and functional group. As incidence of a species increased, variation in distribution and abundance was more related to environmental characteristics. There was no significant relationship between forearm length and magnitude of the connectivity variation partition. Main Conclusions: Metacommunity structure of bats in the Atlantic Forest is complex and includes variation across multiple scales of ecological organization. Structure is strongly associated with phylogenetic, functional and distributional characteristics of species, with these, in turn, related to responses to spatial and environmental gradients in the Atlantic Forest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2141-2155
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Atlantic Forest
  • Phyllostomidae
  • bats
  • dispersal
  • functional groups
  • metacommunity structure


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