Natural Areas Journal | 2021
Using Species Distribution Modeling to Delineate Richness Patterns of Chiropterophilic Plants and Allocate Conservation Efforts in Mexico and the Southwestern United States
ABSTRACT Migratory nectarivorous bats provide important ecological services throughout their ranges, particularly for their food plants. These services include pollinating food plants, dispersing seeds, and reducing genetic isolation in plant populations. However, many important food plants occur in imperiled ecosystems, particularly in tropical dry forests. We assessed the conservation status of lands containing high richness of food plants for three migratory nectarivores—the Mexican long-tongued bat (Choeronycteris mexicana), the Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis), and the lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae)—throughout their ranges including migratory, transition, and resident habitat zones. We found low to moderate levels of land protection in regions with high chiropterophilic plant diversity, but this may be offset by sustainable agroforestry, cultivation, and in-situ management. The models we used are available as an ArcGIS map package to help allocate conservation and restoration efforts on the ground. Our results support the need for greater land protection throughout the Sierra Madre Occidental and Sierra Madre Oriental to increase contiguity of protected lands and potential stopover habitat for migratory nectarivorous bats. Additionally, our data show the need for greater land protection in southern resident zones to enhance year-round habitat for nectarivorous bats in the face of rapid deforestation.