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White-nose syndrome dramatically altered the summer bat assemblage in a temperate southern Appalachian forest

Formally Refereed
Authors: Joy M. O’Keefe, Joseph L. Pettit, Susan C. Loeb, William H. Stiver
Year: 2019
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Southern Research Station
Source: Mammalian Biology


White-nose syndrome (WNS), an epizootic disease caused by an invasive fungus, threatens bat populations across North America. WNS-induced changes in summer bat populations could impact functional diversity. We assessed the shift in relative abundance within an assemblage of bats in a temperate southern Appalachian forest in North Carolina and Tennessee from 2009 through 2016. We used mixed linear effects models to identify bat species significantly impacted by WNS and those showing resistance, and to determine effects on reproductive rates for WNS-affected species. Four once-common species — the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), Indiana bat (M. sodalis), northern long-eared bat (M. septentrionalis), and tri-colored bat (Perimyotis  subflavus) — showed significant and dramatic declines (82–99%), while the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), red bat (Lasiurus  borealis), Rafinesque’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii), and small-footed bat (M. leibii) did not decline significantly after WNS was detected on the landscape. We detected no significant interactions between reproductive condition and WNS period (pre- and post-arrival of the disease). Declines in summer populations mirrored declines detected in nearby winter  hibernacula.  Because the loss of WNS-affected  bat  species  could  negatively  impact  ecosystem health, it is important to monitor bat, insect, and plant community responses wherever WNS threatens bats. We hypothesize that, in the absence of small-bodied bats, there might be increases in populations of small forest pests, such as defoliating moths, as larger WNS-resistant bats may avoid or miss these small prey.



Chiroptera, disease, insectivorous bats, population declines, White-nose syndrome


O Keefe, Joy M.; Pettit, Joseph L.; Loeb, Susan C.; Stiver, William H. 2019. White-nose syndrome dramatically altered the summer bat assemblage in a temperate southern Appalachian forest. Mammalian Biology. 98: 146-153.