Bat activity is often concentrated near linear and edge landscape structures such as hedgerows, but information about seasonal and species-specific bat activity near hedges is scarce despite their abundance in the cultural landscapes of central Europe. Exact knowledge on animals' habitat use, however, is key to effective landscape planning to avoid human-wildlife-conflicts, such as the construction of wind turbines in areas with high bat activity that may result in bat fatalities. We measured bat activity in relation to distance to hedgerows in an agricultural landscape in northeastern Germany. We recorded bat echolocation calls at ground level at 0, 50, 100 and 200 m distances from hedges at five sites during three nights in spring (April to June) and three nights in summer (July to October) at each site. For all bat species we found the overall activity to be similar between seasons, with the highest activity near the hedges, but with considerable variation in species-specific spatial activity patterns between spring and summer. While the genus Myotis and Pipistrellus pipistrellus were mostly active close to the hedges at a similar intensity over the entire study period (i.e. 84% and 86% of all bat passes, respectively), Nyctalus noctula and Pipistrellus nathusii showed generally less pronounced concentration of activity near the hedges, and increased activity away from the hedges in summer. Similarly, Pipistrellus pygmaeus showed decreased activity away from the hedges during both seasons, but with reduced activity near the hedges in summer. The observed behavioural changes in activity in relation to distance to hedgerows are likely due to migration or the bats foraging for different prey between seasons. Our findings are highly relevant for landscape planning and distance recommendations for the construction of wind turbines linked to their potential threat for bats.
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Vol. 16 • No. 1