Long-term monitoring of a winter bat assemblage revealed large fluctuations and trends in species abundance

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Abstract

Monitoring studies in Strzaliny, one of the greatest hibernacula in Poland, comprised 31 annual bat censuses (1989–2019). The abundance peaked in 2002 for Myotis myotis, 2009 for Myotis nattereri and 2008 for the whole assemblage. Comparison of the maximum abundance in the monitoring period with that from 1980 to 1982 showed an almost fourfold increase for the whole assemblage, tenfold increase for M. nattereri and fourfold increase for M. myotis.

In 1989–2019, the numbers of M. myotis, M. nattereri, Myotis daubentonii and Plecotus auritus were fluctuating, but most of the recorded changes could not be explained by methodological problems or a direct human impact. Therefore, the cumulative results largely reflected the real trends in the species abundance. A long-term upward trend in the whole bat assemblage was recognisable, but with a stable or slightly decreasing phase in the last decade. An upward trend in M. nattereri was even stronger and has only slightly flattened recently. In M. myotis, the trend was clearly upwards up to the early 2000s, but weakly downwards in the following years. In M. daubentonii and P. auritus, no significant trend was determined. In strongly fluctuating M. daubentonii, the numbers were mostly moderate or high, and even increasing, up to 2008 and only moderate or low in the following years. In P. auritus, an increase occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s, and then, after the stochastic human-induced drop in 1994, its abundance remained relatively stable.

The population trends in Strzaliny largely reflected the general trends assessed for a large part of Europe. This suggests that the general population trends may be recognisable even in one large winter assemblage if it is reliably and consistently monitored through a long period. In this context, the hibernaculum in Strzaliny appeared to be a model object for such studies.

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