University of Ruhana, Department of Agricultural Biology
Bats in tea: Acoustic identification of bats in plantation agriculture landscape and their conservation monitoring
Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world, behind water. Sri Lanka is the world's fourth largest tea producer – and bats play an important role in tea production.
"Bats are the principal natural predators, playing a significant role in regulating nocturnal insect pests," explains Tharaka Kusuminda. "Just as important, they are also effective bio-indicators of biodiversity and environmental change." However, there is little research on bat diversity in tea plantations in specific and little understanding of the effects of agricultural intensification on Sri Lankan bat populations, in general.
Mr. Kusuminda's team will launch the first large scale bat study in Sri Lanka using passive ultrasonic recorders. Covering fourteen tea plantations, his work will showcase the importance of bioacoustics recording methodologies. The collected and analyzed data will expand an existing Asian bat call library and establish a second, long-term acoustic study which will examine the effects of anthropogenic pressure on species distribution and abundance in tea plantations. The projects results will ultimately be used for finding ways to make plantation lands more bat friendly in order benefit from the bats' free ecosystem services.
Using the Echo Meter Touch 2 PRO handheld bat detector|recorder|analyzer, the researchers will identify suitable plantation recording sites with potential flight paths. The sites will then be equipped with Song Meter SM4BAT FS ultrasonic detectors to record bat echolocations in the areas over many weeks. The analysis work will be completed with Wildlife Acoustics' Kaleidoscope Pro 5 software.
Kusuminda's efforts will also support the University of Ruhana academic capacity building and guide interested undergraduate and graduate students in field research. Finally, the findings will also be shared in international peer-reviewed journals and community outreach efforts.
Professor Aliza le Roux
University of the Free State – Qwaqwa Campus
The flying fauna of a montane wetland
High altitude wetlands in Africa are under threat from human activities. While mountains provide most of Africa's fresh water and montane wetlands provide habitat for many endemic species, almost nothing is known of the fauna that reside in the area. A 2018 National Biodiversity Assessment of South Africa suggests that documentation of biodiversity of montane wetlands must start immediately as human encroachment is quickly reducing the size of wetland areas.
Golden Gate Highland National Park (GGHNP) is the only National Park in South Africa that protects high-altitude grasslands and is an area considered vital to bird conservation. Within this park is an unmonitored wetland that may host some of the rarest bird and bat species in South Africa and Professor Aliza le Roux suspects that, "the isolated wetland may host a larger number of unique species in comparison to more accessible wetlands elsewhere."
Professor le Roux's project is the first in South Africa to monitor montane biodiversity using a soundscape approach. Equipped with Song Meter SM4 wildlife recorders and the Echo Meter Touch 2 handheld detector|recorder|analyzer, le Roux's team plans to record and highlight the faunal diversity (both avian and chiropteran) of what is considered undervalued wetland. The many hours of recordings will be quickly organized and analyzed using Wildlife Acoustics' Kaleidoscope Pro 5 software with Cluster analysis. The acoustic data will be compared with information collected via camera traps deployed at the sites. Aliza says the camera traps visually confirm variation in species indices, but, "I expect a significantly richer data set from the Song Meters and Echo Meter Touch bat detectors."
Aliza's results will shared with GGNHP management the local district municipality, traditional leaders in the area and the Department of Environmental Affairs with the long-term strategy of improving ecotourism in one of the poorest regions of South Africa.
Dr. Lindsay Young
Pacific Rim Conservation
Surveys for endangered Newell's Shearwaters and vulnerable Hawai'ian Petrels on the island of O'ahu
Hawai'i's only endemic seabirds, the Newell's Shearwater and Hawai'ian Petrel, are nest burrowers, have no natural defenses against predators such as rats and feral cats, and as a result, are threatened and endangered. In the past twenty years alone, their populations have declined by 94% and 78%, respectively.
Dr. Young's plan is to search between three and five sites on the island of O'ahu, for the presence of Newell's Shearwater and the Hawai'ian Petrel and to determine whether birds detected in previous surveys are prospecting or breeding on the island. She will deploy several Song Meter SM4 wildlife recorders at sites where birds had been detected. The sites will be visited monthly and the data will be downloaded and quickly analyzed using Kaleidoscope Pro 5 software with Acoustic Cluster analysis. She and her team will combine the acoustic data with visual and ground search efforts to locate possible burrows.
The data will be presented to land managers so that conservation and management decisions can be made in a timely fashion. If birds are found nesting in the areas, intensive management plans, monitoring and predator control will be established to protect the breeding birds.