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Ecological characterisation of tree dwelling bats in Portugal

Location: Portugal

Background Information:

Tree-dwelling bat species are among Europe's most threatened mammal groups, yet there is a great lack of knowledge about their ecology. This research was proposed to investigate the ecological characteristics of one of the least known and most threatened species of this group (Barbastella barbastellus), and also consider other tree-dwelling species like Plecotus auritusNyctalus leisleri and N. lasiopterus. This study focused on developing habitat-suitability maps that highlight areas of likely occupancy by these bats in mainland Portugal. Subsequently, new trapping techniques were tested in these areas to improve capture efficiency. From captured individuals a non-lethal biopsy punch was collected for genetic analysis to characterise the population structure and species' evolutionary history. Individuals were released and followed to their roosts by radio-tracking. Located roosts were then characterised. This research identified patterns of resource utilisation and demographic structure that can be used in effective conservation strategies for tree-dwelling bats.



  1. To develop habitat-suitability models for the focal species and to determine which ecogeographical variables influence their distribution.

  2. To investigate and improve current methodologies of trapping bats in Europe. This will consist on developing acoustic lures that could increase the efficiency of mist-netting by testing the use of distress calls playbacks to attract bats.

  3. To describe roost characteristics, namely morphology, thermal behaviour and localization, in order to determine optimal roost conditions. Trees in the vicinity of occupied roosts will also be measured to determine if there is selection.

  4. To investigate the genetic structure of the populations by measuring the levels of gene flow among sampled populations.



REBELO, H., FROUFE, E., BRITO, J.C., RUSSO, D., CISTRONE, L., FERRAND, N. & JONES, G. 2012. Postglacial colonization of Europe by the barbastelle bat, Barbastella barbastellus: agreement between molecular data and past predictive modelling. Molecular Ecology 21: 2761-2774. 

REBELO, H., FROUFE, E., FERRAND, N. & JONES, G. 2012. Integrating molecular ecology and predictive modelling for the conservation of rare bat species. European Wildlife Research,58: 721-732. 

REBELO, H. & JONES, G. 2010. Ground validation of presence-only modelling with rare species: a case study on barbastelles Barbastella barbastellus (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae). Journal of Applied Ecology, 47: 410-420. 

REBELO, H., TARROSO, P. & JONES, G. 2010. Predicted impact of climate change on European bats in relation to their biogeographic patterns. Global Change Biology 16: 561-576.  Doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.02021.x 


Dr Hugo Rebelo

Professor Gareth Jones


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