Activity of European common bats along railway verges. Ecological Engineering 64: 49-56

Linear infrastructures such as railways and roads are known to have major negative impacts on species and ecosystem dynamics, modifying landscape structure through artificialization, habitat changes, alteration and fragmentation. Nonetheless, infrastructure verges have also been shown to provide refuges or corridors to a large number of taxa.Here we examine the potential use by bats of railway verges crossing woodland patches within an agricultural matrix as foraging/commuting habitats. We tested whether (i) at a large scale (national level),railways lines were globally an appreciated foraging/commuting habitat for common bats species, and(ii) at a local scale (landscape level), woodland-railway edges have an effect on bat activity compared too ther habitat types like woodland-field edges, woodland habitats and field habitats. At local scale, we also looked for a pre-eminent influence of landscape composition on bat activity over habitat types.Our results show that the presence of railway verges does not influence significantly the forag-ing/commuting activity of common bats, except for specialist species like the ones from the Myotis group,for which the effect is negative. In several cases (for Pipistrellus pipistrellus and Nyctalus leislerii at largescale and for Nyctalus ssp. at local scale), railway verges even seem to be a significant habitat in an intensive agricultural landscape where semi-natural elements, in particular linear structures like hedgerows,tend to disappear.In a context of rapid biodiversity decline, our results suggest that railway verges should be considered by managers and engineers not only as a side aspect of the railroad, but also as elements having a potential role in maintaining common biodiversity, especially in human-dominated landscapes such as agricultural systems. In order to contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity, the management of these verges iscrucial and some simple rules are considered. Nevertheless, we stress that further studies are needed tobetter assess the roles, both positive and negative, of railway verges, in order to propose more precise technical design and management recommendations.

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VANDEVELDE Jean Christophe, BOUHOURS Aurélie, JULIEN Jean-François, COUVET Denis, KERBIRIOU Christian


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