In this study we used a multi-spatial scale approach to investigate habitat suitability, roosting characteristics, and ecological niche in two flying fox species on the Comoros Islands—Pteropus livingstonii and Pteropus seychellensis comorensis. At a broad scale, we assessed the ecological niche and habitat suitability for both species using the Species Distribution Modeling method based on the recent ensembles of small models (ESM) approach. At a fine scale, Ecological Niche Factor Analysis (ENFA) was applied to assess habitat selection by each species. Direct observation was used at each roost to estimate the total number of individuals and to identify the roost characteristics. At both broad and fine scales, the analyses highlighted clear niche partitioning by the two species. We found that P. livingstonii has a very limited distribution, restricted to steep, high-elevation slopes of the islands’ remaining natural forests, and the patterns were the same for roosting, foraging sites and the entire habitat. By contrast, P. s. comorensis has a relatively large geographic range that extends over low-elevation farmlands and villages and it was negatively correlated to natural forest across the entire area and all roosting sites, but its foraging areas were positively correlated to natural forest and high elevation areas. Both species selected large, tall trees for roosting. The total number of individuals in the studied area was estimated to be 1243 P. livingstonii and 11,898 P. s. comorensis. The results of our study demonstrated that these two species use different habitat types and ensure different ecosystem services in pollination and seed dispersion and thus are both critical for maintaining overall ecosystem dynamics. However, the currently high level of hunting pressure and roost disturbance makes them vulnerable to extinction. To ensure the viability of both species, conservation measures need to be taken by the Comoros government.
Biodiversity and Conservation – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 16, 2018
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