About this Research Topic
The most extraordinary biodiversity on the planet exists in the tropics, a region that exhibits a great diversity of vegetation types. Old-growth forests, savannas, seasonally flooded forests, dry forests, and grass fields are present in all tropical ecosystems such as Latin America, Africa, Tropical Asia, and Oceania. Bats represent the most remarkable diversity of the mammalian fauna found in the tropics, from taxonomic to functional and phylogenetic diversity. Bats can be found in a variety of different vegetation types in the tropical region, varying in the gradient of structural complexity from the dense vegetation of ancient forests to open forests such as savannas and fields.
Bats have been globally linked to adverse zoonoses such as rabies and emerging diseases like COVID-19. Thus, it is crucial to reinforce the positive and significant services provided by these animals in the tropics. Bats provide essential ecosystem services such as seed dispersal and the pollination of many plants that contribute to the formal economy and income of the most impoverished human populations. Bats also play an important role in predating countless agricultural pests, benefiting an essential activity in these parts of the world, as well as vectors of human disease. Therefore, it is urgent to provide correct information about bats and to search for best practices to help mitigate the adverse effects caused by human activities.
It is widely recognized that the main threat to bat diversity is the extensive conversion of natural ecosystems, including de-vegetation for cattle ranching, agriculture, and urbanization, a factor that is particularly prominent in many tropical developing countries. The abandonment of these areas after human activities has given rise to the expansion and dominance of secondary forests in many of these altered landscapes. The response of bats to human-induced loss, degradation, and alteration of natural ecosystems is complex and depends on the intensity, frequency, and area of disturbance, as well as the resilience of each ecosystem/habitat. However, it can be seen that these changes in natural landscapes have resulted in the loss of species and valuable ecosystem services.
Current knowledge of the effects of different types of environmental disturbances and vegetation regeneration in bats is skewed to the old-growth forest, while other types of vegetation such as savannas and flooded forests have often been neglected. Most of this knowledge comes from research done in the New World tropics, with research in Southeast Asia and Australasia being less common, and studies in Africa being rarer still. This makes it challenging to recognize the possible patterns associated with changes in land use and environmental degradation on bat biodiversity in tropical regions. To develop essential conservation and management guidelines for bats, we urgently need to acquire this type of knowledge and to go far beyond taxonomic perspectives, integrating phylogenetic and functional perspectives in this endeavor.
This Research Topic aims to bring together current research that assesses the influence of multiple environmental transformation drivers (see list below) on the diversity of tropical bats using taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic approaches. Reviews on the impacts of environmental degradation on bats, on a regional or global scale, or a type of ecosystem on a continental scale will be accepted. Manuscripts should make explicit in the discussion, in a separate section wherever possible, information on management actions or public policies and sustainable alternatives or ecological restoration aimed at mitigating human impacts on the biodiversity of bats.
Manuscripts dealing with the following human-caused impacts will be accepted for review:
• Food production (e.g., agriculture, cattle grazing)
• Commercial wood plantation
• Forest fires
• Hydroelectric dams
• Linear infrastructures (e.g., roads and power transmission lines)
• Wild farms
• Urban expansion
Authors may submit an abstract for a pre-evaluation if they wish to receive feedback on whether the manuscript falls within the scope of the Research Topic.
Keywords: chiroptera, forest ecosystems, non-forest ecosystems, landscape change, replacing native vegetation, tropics, urbanization, bats
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