Conservation importance of limestone karst outcrops for Palaeotropical bats in a fragmented landscape

Matthew J. Struebig, Tigga Kingston, Akbar Zubaid, Steven C. Le Comber, Adura Mohd-Adnan, Anthony Turner, Joanne Kelly, Monika Bozek, Stephen J. Rossiter

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71 Scopus citations


Limestone karst landscapes are important for biodiversity yet are increasingly threatened by development activities such as mining. Furthermore, karsts are often scattered and isolated by agriculture, and are rarely considered in landscape planning because of a paucity of biodiversity data. We determined the conservation significance of an isolated limestone karst outcrop for insectivorous bats by quantifying the influence of this roosting resource on local assemblage structure across a fragmented landscape in peninsular Malaysia. Using a combination of rank abundance, gradient and randomisation analyses, we demonstrate that bat assemblages at nine forest sites are structured following a spatial gradient of increasing distance from a karst roosting resource. The assemblage at our karst site was dominated by a superabundance of three cave-roosting species, two of which were also found to dominate assemblages up to 11 km away. Cave-roosting bats exhibited a significant decay in abundance related to the distance from karst, with sites closest to karst also characterised by a rarity of tree cavity/foliage-roosting species that were otherwise common. Gradient analysis revealed that differences in assemblage composition were largely associated with the distance from the karst and, to a lesser extent, forest isolation and area. Our findings suggest that isolated karst outcrops can serve as important population reservoirs for cave-roosting bats, which subsidise diversity levels in forest fragments that might otherwise be expected to decline over time. While conservation efforts need to focus on maintaining large areas of connected forest, landscape management needs to ensure protection of karsts as point resources for cave-roosting bats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2089-2096
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • Cave
  • Chiroptera
  • Distance decay
  • Forest fragmentation
  • Gradient
  • Malaysia
  • Mining
  • Spatial subsidy


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