Riparian habitats are known to be important for bats across the world, however this is largely unstudied in Africa. We investigated the community structure of bats in riparian areas and the surrounding savanna landscape in Swaziland's lowveld using mist nets and a harp trap. We found riparian sites overall had higher bat activity, diversity, species richness and abundance. One species (Epomophorus wahlbergi) accounted for 52.6% of captures. Seasonality had no effect on overall captures, nor did distance from nearest riparian habitat for savanna sites. Echolocation guilds were correlated with vegetation characteristics, with CF (constant frequency), FM (steep frequency-modulated) and FM-QCF (broadband FM) bats more frequently captured at sites with denser undergrowth than QCF (quasi-constant frequency or narrowband FM) bats; conversely, QCF bats were more frequently caught at sites with lower canopy cover than other bats. Our findings suggest that although bats discriminate between microhabitats, they do not respond to larger-scale habitat features in the way that other taxa, such as birds, are found to. In conclusion it appears that riparian areas are important foraging sites for bats within African savannas.
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