In fragmented areas, the persistence of different species depends on their ability to use the surrounding matrix either as a corridor or as a foraging habitat. We assessed how species richness and abundance of Neotropical bats differ among forest fragments and rubber plantations under different management regimes. Our study site was located in a heterogeneous agricultural area in the Atlantic Forest of Bahia, northeastern Brazil. By combining mist netting and acoustic monitoring as complementary techniques, we caught 28 phyllostomid species and recorded 21 aerial insectivorous species, which either forage in open space or close to forests. Open space species were equally abundant and diverse in all land use types. In contrast, assemblages of phyllostomid and aerial insectivorous forest species differed significantly among habitats, with the highest species richness recorded in forest fragments. We identified a number of forest specialists in forest fragments, which indicates a relatively intact bat fauna. In intensively used rubber-cacao plantation, we found surprisingly high bat abundance and diversity, despite the shortage of resources for bats. Our results also indicate that patches of secondary vegetation around rubber plantations are important landscape features for bats and might contribute to the persistence of highly diverse bat assemblages. We suggest that bats do not perceive plantations as a hostile matrix, but probably use them as corridors between forest fragments and patches of secondary vegetation.
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