Climate, habitat, and species interactions at different scales determine the structure of a Neotropical bat community

Sergio Estrada-Villegas, Brian J. McGill, Elisabeth K.V. Kalko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Climate, habitat, and species interactions are factors that control community properties (e.g., species richness, abundance) across various spatial scales. Usually, researchers study how a few properties are affected by one factor in isolation and at one scale. Hence, there are few multi-scale studies testing how multiple controlling factors simultaneously affect community properties at different scales. We ask whether climate, habitat structure, or insect resources at each of three spatial scales explains most of the variation in six community properties and which theory best explains the distribution of selected community properties across a rainfall gradient. We studied a Neotropical insectivorous bat ensemble in the Isthmus of Panama with acoustic monitoring techniques. Using climatological data, habitat surveys, and insect captures in a hierarchical sampling design we determined how much variation of the community properties was explained by the three factors employing two approaches for variance partitioning. Our results revealed that most of the variation in species richness, total abundance, and feeding activity occurred at the smallest spatial scale and was explained by habitat structure. In contrast, climate at large scales explained most of the variation in individual species' abundances. Although each species had an idiosyncratic response to the gradient, species richness peaked at intermediate levels of precipitation, whereas total abundance was very similar across sites, suggesting density compensation. All community properties responded in a different manner to the factor and scale under consideration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1183-1193
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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