BATS IN THE MEGAFIRE: HOW HIGH INTENSITY WILDFIRE IS SHAPING NOCTURNAL FOOD WEBS IN THE WESTERN SIERRAS.
Haley Mirts; 120 C St, Apt #5, Davis, CA, 95616; (530) 680-2025; hemirts@ucdavis.edu; Rahel Sollmann, Angela White, Hillary Young
The coniferous forests of the Sierra Nevada are undergoing unprecedented ecological change owing to drought, pests, and large high-severity wildfires (aka "megafires"). These impacts can cause fundamental changes to food webs, and thus ecosystem stability. The primary focus of this research is to investigate 1) how understudied bat communities respond to megafires 2) and whether this response is driven by prey availability. Data were collected at 27 sites of varying burn severity (unburned, mixed and high severity) within and adjacent to the perimeter of the 2014 King Fire in the Eldorado National Forest, between June and September 2017. Nocturnal insects were surveyed using blacklight traps to estimate prey availability and biomass. 17 Species of bats were detected using acoustic recordings, including several species listed as CSSC. The bat species detected varied in their response to fire, with most species displaying aversion to moderately burned habitat. We report results of the wildfire impacts, community restructuring, and the influence of prey availability. This study contributes valuable information about how megafires restructure ecological communities and networks. Megafires are predicted to become more frequent across the Western United States, and studies like the present one can help manage post-fire habitat by influencing forestry policy.
Ecology and Conservation of Bats I   Student Paper