Year of Publication

2022

Degree Name

Master of Science in Forest and Natural Resource Sciences (MSFNRS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Agriculture, Food and Environment

Department/School/Program

Forestry and Natural Resources

First Advisor

Dr. Christopher Barton

Abstract

The Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) is a practical guide to reforesting surface mined lands. Bats, as a unique group of species with declining populations, could benefit from this reforestation. In order to determine if the FRA is providing suitable bat foraging habitat, I surveyed bat activity at created depressional wetlands on 1-year old and 8-year old FRA restored lands (FRA1; FRA8), as well as at naturally formed wetlands in regenerating forest on traditionally reclaimed mined land (~40 years old; REGEN) and wetlands in mature forest not previously mined (MAT). I passively recorded echolocation calls for 12 nights across sixteen sites between June and August 2021. I analyzed this acoustic data for the number of recordings, pulse counts, and feeding buzzes as indexes of activity. This activity was also analyzed in conjunction with black-light to sample nocturnal insect prey abundance and biomass as well as habitat assessments to measure microhabitat and landscape variables. Data was analyzed using generalized linear mixed effects models. Foraging activity was recorded in addition to commuting activity at the restored sites, and both restored land classes had activity levels that were progressing toward those from MAT. However, REGEN had the greatest activity levels for all response variables possibly due to its distance from roads and proximity to forest edges. Insect abundance and biomass were comparable across the sites and did not significantly explain the variation in activity, yet this indicates that FRA practices do not hinder the establishment of a prey base for bats. Overall, the bats are using the restored mined land as part of the larger landscape. Reforestation of reclaimed legacy mines that are in a state of arrested succession will certainly help restore lost ecosystem function, but reforestation complemented with wetland creation will provide further ecosystem benefits such as the establishment of beneficial wildlife habitat.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2022.398

Funding Information

This project was supported by the University of Kentucky's Karri Casner Environmental Sciences Fellowship in 2021, the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center through the Eller and Billings Student Research Award in 2021, and the Graduate Student Research Activity Award from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the University of Kentucky in 2020. It was also supported through the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Traineeship-Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems program under Grant No. 1922694 in 2021 and 2022.

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