Urban Sprawl, Food Subsidies and Power Lines: An Ecological Trap for Large Frugivorous Bats in Sri Lanka?

José L. Tella, Dailos Hernández-Brito, Guillermo Blanco, Fernando Hiraldo
2020 Diversity  
Electrocution is one of the less known anthropogenic impacts likely affecting the bat population. We surveyed 925 km of overhead distribution power lines that supply energy to spreading urbanized areas in Sri Lanka, recording 300 electrocuted Indian flying foxes (Pteropus giganteus). Electrocutions were recorded up to 58 km from the nearest known colony, and all of them were in urbanized areas and very close ( X ¯ = 4.8 m) to the exotic fruiting trees cultivated in gardens. Predictable
more » ... redictable anthropogenic food subsidies, in the form of cultivated fruits and flowers, seem to attract flying foxes to urban habitats, which in turn become ecological traps given their high electrocution risk. However, electrocution rates greatly varied among the 352 power lines surveyed (0.00–24.6 indiv./km), being highest in power lines with four wires oriented vertically ( X ¯ = 0.92 indiv./km) and almost zero in power lines with wires oriented horizontally. Therefore, the latter design should be applied to projected new power lines and old vertically oriented lines in electrocution hotspots should be substituted. Given that flying foxes are key seed dispersers and pollinators, their foraging habitat selection change toward urban habitats together with high electrocution risk not only may contribute to their population decline but also put their ecosystem services at risk.
doi:10.3390/d12030094 fatcat:s7hkzsbnbbbqvmkcg5koox3e44