Optimizing conservation strategies for Mexican free-tailed bats: a population viability and ecosystem services approach

Ruscena Wiederholt, Laura López-Hoffman, Colleen Svancara, Gary McCracken, Wayne Thogmartin, Jay E. Diffendorfer, Brady Mattson, Kenneth Bagstad, Paul Cryan, Amy Russell, Darius Semmens, Rodrigo A. Medellín

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Conservation planning can be challenging due to the need to balance biological concerns about population viability with social concerns about the benefits biodiversity provide to society, often while operating under a limited budget. Methods and tools that help prioritize conservation actions are critical for the management of at-risk species. Here, we use a multi-attribute utility function to assess the optimal maternity roosts to conserve for maintaining the population viability and the ecosystem services of a single species, the Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana). Mexican free-tailed bats provide ecosystem services such as insect pest-suppression in agricultural areas and recreational viewing opportunities, and may be threatened by climate change and development of wind energy. We evaluated each roost based on five attributes: the maternity roost’s contribution to population viability, the pest suppression ecosystem services to the surrounding area provided by the bats residing in the roost, the ecotourism value of the roost, the risks posed to each roost structure, and the risks posed to the population of bats residing in each roost. We compared several scenarios that prioritized these attributes differently, hypothesizing that the set of roosts with the highest rankings would vary according to the conservation scenario. Our results indicate that placing higher values on different roost attributes (e.g. population importance over ecosystem service value) altered the roost rankings. We determined that the values placed on various conservation objectives are an important determinant of habitat planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-82
Number of pages20
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Anthropogenic risks
  • Conservation assessment and planning
  • Decision-support tools
  • Ecosystem services
  • Maternity roosts
  • Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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