Vertical stratification is a key component of the biological complexity of rainforests. Understanding community- and species-level responses to disturbance across forest strata is paramount for evidence-based conservation and management. However, even for bats, known to extensively explore multiple layers of the complex three-dimensional forest space, studies are biased towards understory-based surveys and only few assessments of vertical stratification were done in fragmented landscapes. Using both ground and canopy mist-nets, we investigated how the vertical structure of bat assemblages is influenced by forest fragmentation in the experimentally fragmented landscape of the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, Central Amazon, Brazil. Over a three year-period, we captured 3077 individuals of 46 species in continuous forest (CF) and in 1, 10 and 100 ha forest fragments. In both CF and forest fragments, the upper forest strata sustained more diverse bat assemblages than the equivalent understory layer, and the midstory layers had significantly higher bat abundance in fragments than in CF. Artibeus lituratus and Rhinophylla pumilio exhibited significant shifts in their vertical stratification patterns between CF and fragments (e.g. R. pumilio was more associated with the upper strata in fragments than in CF). Altogether, our study suggests that fragmentation modulates the vertical stratification of bat assemblages.
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