A collaborative, open-access, and user-friendly data-sharing platform for global cave-dwelling bat ecology and conservation

Global Bat Cave Vulnerability and Conservation Mapping Initiative

The identification of important habitats for wildlife is essential in order to plan and promote strategies for long-term effective conservation. Caves are frequently overlooked habitats with diverse communities, which are frequently endemic to a region or even a single cave. These cave species include a wide range of taxa, which are adapted to cave environments. Within cave systems, bats are key providers of energy for other cave-dependent species. However, identifying caves for conservation prioritization requires an understanding of diversity and endemism patterns, in addition to a standard mechanism to evaluate risk. To best maintain and protect current biodiversity, it is essential to develop priorities for conservation and management.  Using bats as umbrella species to evaluate the diversity and conservation needs of caves may provide an index to protect total cave biodiversity. 

The absence of a uniform procedure to identify important bat caves prompted the development of the ‘Bat Cave Vulnerability Index’ (Tanalgo et al. 2018, Ecological Indicators https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.11.064). The goal of the index development is to provide an important component of many local and regional action plans. Here, using various cave biological, landscape and anthropogenic features we analyze both the biotic value and threat of a frequently overlooked ecosystem. This index introduces an inclusive biodiversity index that covers both the species diversity and the condition of the habitat, both are important elements in making conservation, management and policy-making initiatives both at regional and global scales. The index we have developed here is specifically tailored for the conservation of caves, karsts, and underground habitats, and unlike former indices, it finely blends both biotic and abiotic perspectives to understand value, status, and threat. All of the mentioned habitats are important for many species and but receive little conservation attention, as evidenced by continuous exploitation in different regions. Another interesting feature of the index we developed is its easy-to-use equation, which we intentionally made for rapid local assessments, whilst simultaneously providing something standardized, comparable and useful in assigning value and threat. The method we have developed provides a first step in developing priorities that maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of conservation.

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*Tanalgo K.C., Tabora J.A.G., Oliveira H.F.M., *Haelwaters D., Beranek C.T., Otálora-Ardila A., Bernard E., Gonçalves F., Eriksson A., Donnelly M., González J.M., Ramos H.F., Rivas A.C., Webala P., Deleva S., Dalhoumi R., Maula J., Lizarro D., Aguirre L., Bouillard N., Quibod M.N.R., Barros J., Turcios-Casco M.A., Martínez M., Ordoñez-Mazier D.I., Orellana J.A.S., Ordoñez-Trejo E.J., Ordoñez D., Chornelia A., Lu J.M., Xing C., Baniya S., Muylaert R.L., Dias-Silva L., Ruadrea N., *Hughes A.C., (2021). DarkCideS 1.0, a global database for bats in karsts and caves. Authorea Preprints DOI: 10.22541/au.163578759.92395202/v1

All datasets included in DarkCideS are publicly available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) International Public Licences, where users and authors may freely use our datasets, with the condition that the original sources are credited and acknowledged, the original license is linked, and any modifications and treatments to our data are indicated in the final work or material.

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