Foraging habitat preferences of vespertilionid bats in Britain.
The selection of foraging habitats by vespertilionid bats in Britain was quantified using a stratified sample of 1030 1-km squares. Quantitative analysis of habitat preference and avoidance on a large scale indicated that bats were flexible, yet consistent in their habitat use across contrasting landscapes. Habitats associated with broadleaved woodland and water were most preferred, while arable land, moorland and improved grassland were avoided. Linear vegetation features were selected in all landscapes, demonstrating the importance of habitat continuity to bats. The availability of preferred habitats was low and patchy in all landscapes, indicating that bats have specialized habitat requirements. Habitat selection analysed on a local scale showed the same consistent preference for woodland, riparian and corridor habitats across 19 discrete land classes. Differences in habitat selection between landscape types and possible factors influencing habitat selection are discussed. Management policies for bats in Britain should endeavour to preserve and enhance 3 preferred habitats. Lack of continuity of the landscape, loss and fragmentation of habitat patches plus deterioration of the quality of such patches may pose a threat to bat populations.