The Brazilian Cerrado is the largest continuous savannah in South America and considered to be the most biodiverse savannah in the world. Included in this biodiversity is over 100 species of bats, more than 10% of all bat species in the world, and many of which provide valuable ecosystem services such as pollination and insect pest control. As is the case for most regions across the globe, climate change is likely to shift habitats in this landscape. Will bats of the Cerrado survive?
A recent study looks at the current and potential suitable habitat of 116 species of bats that occur across the 2 million square kilometers of the Cerrado. Since bats are unlikely to adapt quickly to climate change due to slow reproductive rates, dispersal is likely the only option for species persistence. The study’s results highlight not only the importance of maintaining corridors in the landscape to mitigate future climate change, but the necessity of implementing them before climate change shifts habitats, so that a dispersal system is already in place for individuals that need to move.
Under projected climate change scenarios, suitable habitat for bats will shift almost 300 km away. Without dispersal routes available (top graph), over a third of the species would lose a large portion (≥ 80%) of their suitable habitat, including five species that would probably go locally extinct. These numbers shift dramatically if dispersal routes are available (bottom graph), with only three species predicted to lose >80% of their distribution and no species likely to go locally extinct. Conservation efforts that protect corridors and/or stepping stones to future suitable habitat would go a long way in mitigating the negative effects of increasing deforestation and agricultural conversion in the Cerrado, and in ensuring that biodiversity in the region remains high in bat species.
Aguiar, L. M. S., E. Bernard, V. Ribeiro, R. B. Machado, and G. Jones. 2016. Should I stay or should I go? Climate change effects on the future of Neotropical savannah bats. Global Ecology and Conservation 5: 22-33.