Context. Studies of habitat suitability in disturbed landscapes based on species traits can improve predictions about how alternative management strategies are likely to affect threatened species.
Aims. We studied the south-eastern long-eared bat (Nyctophilus corbeni), which represents a group of bats prone to extinction due to attributes that adapt it to flight within cluttered forest vegetation, typically making them forest-dependent. To support decisions about management of the species in timber production forests, we investigated roost selection and characterised diet in a mosaic of disturbance histories in the Pilliga forests of north-western New South Wales.
Methods. We caught 54 N. corbeni, radio-tracked 39 individuals and located 41 unique maternity roost trees. Attributes of roost trees were compared with the local neighbourhood and the landscape mosaic of habitat types and logging treatments (recently logged, recently thinned and old regrowth). Preliminary observations were collected on foraging movements. Diet was characterised for maternity and non-maternity seasons using faecal DNA techniques.
Key Results. Small maternity colonies (<10 bats) were found in hollows and fissures often in exposed locations of trees with a small diameter (means range 23–39 cm) that were usually dead (82.5% of roosts). Buloke Allocasuarina luehmannii was most commonly used for roosting (49%), yet has been overlooked previously as a source of hollows for fauna. Landscape-scale habitat use was subtle: bats avoided roosting in commercially thinned stands and selected old regrowth. Logged and mechanically thinned stands were used in proportion to availability. Nyctophilus corbeni consumed a diverse range of prey in spring (November) and autumn (March), dominated by moths.
Conclusions. Areas of high stem density, especially those containing dead trees, provide key roosting habitat for N. corbeni and this is likely to be a significant factor explaining the species rarity.
Implications. Roosting ecology as well as foraging ecology contributes to a species’ sensitivity to disturbance consistent with trait-based predictions. Heterogeneity in the landscape should be maintained when the habitat of N. corbeni is manipulated (e.g. thinned) by retaining a diversity of stem densities, including dense patches (especially with dead A. luehmannii).