Caves and underground habitats are biodiversity hotspots in terms of endemism, yet they receive little conservation attention leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and disturbance, and consequently cave and karst ecosystems are currently frequently at risk of significant biodiversity loss.
To best maintain and protect current biodiversity it is essential to develop priorities for conservation and management. However, developing effective conservation decisions to protect areas requires a balance between conflicting sets of priorities and limited funding and capacity hinder the effective enaction of priorities. Surrogate taxa are often used as 'shortcuts' for conservation decision making. For example, within cave systems bats are key providers of energy for other cave-dependent species making them an important umbrella species for cave conservation. A new paper published in Ecological Indicators by Krizler C. Tanalgo, a graduate student in the Landscape Ecology Group (Centre for Integrative Conservation) and group leader Prof. Alice C. Hughes, developed a new index which assays the conservation priorities of bat caves using on bat species diversity, and anthropogenic activities.
A cave grading scheme for bat caves has previously been developed but does not suggest priorities and was based only on species diversity (i.e. richness and abundance) and conservation status but failed to incorporate other species attributes such as rarity, endemism and habitat features and threats, which are important components of effective and holistic prioritisation. The absence of a uniform mechanism to identify important caves prompted the development of the ‘Bat Cave Vulnerability Index’ (BCVI). A biodiversity index based on cave biotic potential and cave vulnerability information. The Biotic Potential is represented by species diversity variables i.e., endemism, conservation status, and rarity measurements; and the Biotic Vulnerability is represented by the cave’s landscape features and the presence of human-induced disturbances and threats within and outside the cave. This newly developed index integrates biodiversity information and habitat condition as fundamental elements in making conservation, management and policy-making initiatives both at regional and global scales. An interesting feature of this tool we developed is its easy-to-use equation, which we intentionally made for rapid local assessments, whilst simultaneously providing something standardised, comparable and useful in assigning value and threat.
Progress and next phase
At present, we have ±1000 caves sites across different regions of the world. With this, we attempt to apply the index’s mechanism integrated to spatial tools and models in a wider scope to develop priorities from the regional scale (i.e., Tropical East Asia) to global assessment through collaborative work among colleagues. We are also developing an open to public GUI of the tool for more efficient and rapid data analysis and sharing.
To access the paper click the link https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1WkZ6,XRNLVEXu
Tanalgo K.C., Tabora J.G., Hughes, A.C. (2018) Bat cave vulnerability index (BCVI): A holistic rapid assessment tool to identify priorities for effective cave conservation in the tropics. Ecological Indicators, 89:852-860. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.11.064
KC. Tanalgo and A.C. Hughes, Landscape Ecology Group, Centre for Integrative Conservation, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yunnan, China E-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com (K.C. Tanalgo), firstname.lastname@example.org (A.C. Hughes).