Human Disturbance is Negatively Affecting Bat Diversity in Northern Trinidad
Tropical rainforests are becoming increasingly exposed to human activity and very few pristine or untouched environments remain. It is therefore important to understand how different species react to human disturbance in order to create effective conservation management plans. In the Neotropics, bats are incredibly diverse, partially due to the diversity of their feeding behaviours. However, this large dietary range also leaves specialised species vulnerable to extinction when threatened with human-mediated disturbance. Therefore, it is vital to understand the relationship between anthropogenic activity (such as deforestation and overexploitation),bat species diversity, and diet specialisation in order to protect the bat communities of the Neotropics. From 7 June to 8 August 2017, 478 bats were caught over three sites in Northern Trinidad. Each site was analysed to understand the effects of differing levels of human disturbance on community composition, species diversity, abundance, richness, evenness, rarity, and feeding guild diversity. Bat species richness, diversity and evenness were all significantly and negatively affected by increasing levels of disturbance (p = < 0.05 for all). Out of all the feeding guilds, the omnivores were the only group significantly affected by anthropogenic disturbance(p=< 0.001). These results suggest that continuous human disturbance negatively affects bat species diversity in Northern Trinidad. When disturbance is constant, only generalist species are able to cope with the continuous anthropogenic pressure as they are able to adjust their diets accordingly. Due to this quantitative and predictable reaction to anthropogenic activity, bats are ideal indicator species for monitoring disturbance in the Neotropics.