- Landscape ecology and genetics
- Neotropical bats
- Conservation biology
Landscape modification for food production is a major threat to biodiversity, and a large percentage of the area dedicated to intensive plantations is found in the Tropics. Costa Rica has one of the best networks of protected areas in Latin America, however, around 10% of its territory is composed of agricultural areas. Historically, banana farming in the North-Caribbean lowlands led to large-scale landscape transformations. Currently, banana is extremely important in terms of cultivated land and exports for the country. Nonetheless, there are few studies regarding the impact that these monocultures have on wildlife. Neotropical nectar-feeding bats are often attracted to the nectar resources available in plantations, a behaviour that may affect several aspects of the bats’ biology. These anthropogenic disturbances could impose significant dietary changes onto the nectar-feeding bats, for example, a largely simplified diet; which could affect the composition of the bats’ gut microbiome. In addition, the high input of agrochemicals used in conventional plantations combined with the previously mentioned aspects could generate stress on the animals.
My Ph.D. project deals with the effects that intensive banana monocultures, and the associated agrochemical use, have on native nectar-feeding bats by exploring the relations between habitat alteration, diet, gut microbiota, and immune system condition. The specific questions I aim to answer are (1) How varies the diet of a nectar-feeding bat (Glossophaga soricina) in response to its habitat (natural forest vs. banana plantations)?, (2) How does gut microbiome diversity differ between bats foraging in banana plantations and those living in forests using the various native bat flowers?, (3) Whether agriculturally converted habitats pose higher challenges to the animals´ immune system?, and (4) How do gut microbiome and immune system condition vary in the presence of agrochemicals used in conventional plantations vs. those from bats foraging in organic plantations?
- Priscilla Alpizar
Institute of Evolutionary Ecology
and Conservation Genomics
University of Ulm