How can we place local processes within a regional ecological context?
Laura Cisneros and Brian Klingbeil (Michael Willig‘s lab at the University of Connecticut) are looking at bat communities in Costa Rica & Peru to understand community assembly along environmental gradients.
Altitude appears to be an important driver of the distributions of their bats. Their upper range margins (at high altitudes) seems to be controlled by environmental tolerance, which at least in part can be attributed to decreasing availability of food (fruit, nectar, arboreal insects, aerial insects) (see the review by Presley et al. 2012. Global Ecology & Biogeography 21: 968-976). Habitat type (in this case the presence of intact humid tropical forests) probably plays an important role in this context, as the composition and spatial arrangement of forest patches are likely to affect accessibility, abundance and diversity of resources available to bats (Klingbeil B & Willig M. 2010. Oikos 119: 1654-1664).
Laura, Brian and Michael are collaborating with the BIOFRAG project allowing us to add exciting bats data collected in human-modified landscapes collected from the Neo-tropical realm to our database.