Small islands usually show simplified ecosystems with limited availability of suitable foraging habitats for bats, thus habitat selection on islands may differ compared to the mainland. Habitats that are marginal on the mainland may be important on islands. The island of Capri consists, to a large extent, of steep limestone cliffs and Mediterranean shrubland, with virtually no forests or other habitats preferred by bats on the mainland. In this study we tested the hypothesis that in resource-limited systems, such as islands, habitats generally deemed of minor value for bat foraging, such as cliffs, may become important. We conducted an acoustic survey of bats in Capri (SW Italy), comparing their use of Mediterranean shrubland and limestone cliffs. We found that cliffs provided the preferred foraging habitat in four of the five species tested. Noticeably, even the barbastelle bat Barbastella barbastellus, normally considered a forest specialist, selected coastal cliffs as foraging habitat. Our observations indicate that the paucity of foraging habitats on islands may strongly alter the habitat use by bats. This has important implications for conservation of bats in insular environments.
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Vol. 16 • No. 1