Using species distribution models to gauge the completeness of the bat checklist of Eswatini

Abstract

National species checklists are important for a variety of reasons, including biodiversity conservation. However, these national checklists are rarely complete, and it is not easy to gauge how many species have been overlooked or what the taxonomic identities of overlooked species would be. This is particularly the case for small, elusive, or nocturnal species such as bats. Despite their diversity and importance as ecosystem service providers, bat distributions are poorly known throughout much of Africa. We present a national checklist of bats for a small African country, Eswatini, by compiling species from museum specimens and literature records. A total of 32 species of bats have been recorded from the country. Since 1995, new species have continued to be recorded in Eswatini, with five additional species added since the last published checklist in 2016, suggesting that some species may still be overlooked. In order to determine what species these may be, we used species distribution models based on the occurrence records of bats from southern Africa to predict what species would occur in Eswatini, which was then compared with what has been collected and deposited in museums. Our models predicted that a total of 47 species are likely to occur in Eswatini compared with 32 species collected to date. Our data suggest that the national checklist of bats of Eswatini is not yet complete and that further species are expected to be recorded for the country. We suggest that species distribution models can be useful for gauging the completeness of national checklists and predicting which species may have been overlooked.

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Acknowledgements

Special appreciation goes to the “Strengthening the National Protected Areas Systems of Swaziland” (SNPAS) project and the project manager, Mr T. Methula, for funding this study. We would also like to extend our gratitude to the various community leaders that permitted us to conduct our study in their areas. We are also grateful to the following for assistance in the field: Mr Khoza, Mr Mkhwanazi, Mr Nhlabatsi, Mr Manana, Mr Mncina, Mr Sacolo, Mr Magagula, Mr Sibandze, Mr Dlamini, and Mr Echecolonea.

Funding

This study is based on bat specimens previously collected by different projects and therefore has no funding itself. JTS was supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. DGE-1315138, a Student Research Grant from Bat Conservation International, a National Geographic Young Explorer’s Grant 9635-14, and The Explorers Club Exploration Fund – Mamont Scholars Program

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Correspondence to Ara Monadjem.

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Monadjem, A., Simelane, F., Shapiro, J.T. et al. Using species distribution models to gauge the completeness of the bat checklist of Eswatini. Eur J Wildl Res 67, 21 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-021-01463-9

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Keywords

  • Chiroptera
  • Maxent
  • Species area curve
  • Species richness