Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 455–469 | Cite as

Patterns in bat functional guilds across multiple urban centres in south-eastern Australia

  • Gary W. Luck
  • Lisa Smallbone
  • Caragh Threlfall
  • Bradley Law
Research Article


Understanding the impacts of landscape change on species behaviour is a major challenge in landscape ecology. A focus on the functional traits of species may improve this understanding if species with similar traits (functional guilds) are impacted by landscape change in similar ways, but this idea has not been widely tested on bat communities in urban landscapes. We examined changes in bat species richness and the activity level of species in different functional guilds within 72 residential neighbourhoods across 18 towns and cities spanning over 250,000 square km in south-eastern Australia. Species richness increased close to native vegetation, declined with increasing urbanization, and had a hump-shaped relationship with neighbourhood vegetation cover. Also, the activity level of all bat species combined peaked at mid-range values of neighbourhood vegetation cover. The activity of species in the open-adapted guild was not strongly related to any urban characteristic, but our results concur with previous findings that the activity of most open-adapted species does not appear to be negatively impacted by urbanization. Conversely, clutter-adapted species appear more sensitive to urbanization and their activity level was negatively related to urban intensity and increased closer to native vegetation, consistent with previous studies. The functional-trait approach may improve the capacity to make generalisations across different landscape contexts for clutter-adapted and open-adapted guilds, but is currently hampered for other bat species owing to variation in the behaviour of different species assigned to the same functional guild, and a lack of ecological knowledge regarding the impacts of different types of landscape change on particular species.


Australia Bat activity Bat diversity Bayesian analysis Functional traits Guilds Microchiroptera Urban ecology Urban landscapes 



This project was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (DP0770261) to GWL. We thank Matt Gibson for developing Anascheme, Lindy Lumsden for identifying bat calls in Victorian towns, Kathryn Sheffield for conducting the remote sensing analysis, Mick McCarthy and Brendan Wintle for assistance with the Bayesian analysis, two referees for constructive comments on drafts of the manuscript, and the local governments and residents of all towns for their support.

Supplementary material

10980_2012_9842_MOESM1_ESM.docx (36 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 35 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary W. Luck
    • 1
  • Lisa Smallbone
    • 1
  • Caragh Threlfall
    • 2
  • Bradley Law
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Land, Water and SocietyCharles Sturt UniversityAlburyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Resource Management and GeographyUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Forest Science Centre, Department of Primary IndustriesBeecroftAustralia

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