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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Widespread occupancy of the Endangered northern myotis on northeastern Atlantic Coastal Plain islands

Samantha Hoff*, Brittany A. Mosher, Mandy Watson, Luanne Johnson, Elizabeth Olson, Danielle O’Dell, Casey J. Pendergast, Daniel A. Bogan, Carl J. Herzog, Wendy C. Turner

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Northern myotis Myotis septentrionalis are one of the bat species most affected by white-nose syndrome (WNS), and disease-induced declines may cause compounding effects when combined with other threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation. Recent evidence suggests that peripheral populations are persisting in post-WNS years; however, the environmental factors that influence the occurrence of this species along the Atlantic Coastal Plain are virtually unknown. We conducted a large-scale acoustic survey on 3 islands: Long Island, New York, and Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA, and used a multi-scale occupancy modeling approach to determine the landscape and abiotic factors affecting the distribution of northern myotis. Our estimates of occupancy and detection probability suggest widespread presence across the islands. At the local (200 m) scale, we identified strong negative effects of development on Long Island and Nantucket and a strong positive effect of forest habitat on Martha’s Vineyard. None of the variables we measured sufficiently explained the landscape (1 km2) occupancy of this species, which was very high ( EMBED Equation.DSMT4  = 0.81–0.97), representing an outlier for this species in the post-WNS landscape. The lack of association at the landscape scale suggests that general differences in land cover are not a driving factor of higher occupancy of peripheral northern myotis populations, while local site-specific conditions may be supporting critical foraging or roosting habitat. Because islands are particularly vulnerable to human-driven habitat alteration due to the constraint of limited space, and development pressure is expected to increase, this study provides a baseline to enable managers to assess the effects of future environmental disturbances and monitor population trends to support long-term survival of northern myotis.