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Pacific Conservation Biology Pacific Conservation Biology Society
A journal dedicated to conservation and wildlife management in the Pacific region.

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This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.

Conserving the Pilbara leaf-nosed bat: directions for future research and management

Holly Bradley 0000-0002-7937-857X, Kyle Armstrong, Bob Bullen, Ryan Ellis, Chris Knuckey, Kym Ottewell, Scott Reiffer, Ruchira Somaweera, Linette Umbrello, Stephen van Leeuwen

Abstract

The Pilbara leaf-nosed bat (Rhinonicteris aurantia ‘Pilbara form’) is a threatened insectivorous microbat endemic to the Pilbara region of Western Australia which is at risk of significant population decline due to multiple threatening processes, particularly habitat loss from mining. To address its key threats, stakeholders from a range of backgrounds collectively listed and prioritised key research actions in 2013. This exercise was repeated in 2022 to evaluate the progress made towards the research priorities and update them. To determine the progress made over a decade, we conducted a review of scientific and grey literature (between 2013 and 2023) to: (i) identify the work undertaken to date which addressed the research priorities identified in the 2013 stakeholder workshop; (ii) identify the current knowledge gaps in Pilbara leaf-nosed bat ecology, conservation, and threatening processes; and (iii) highlight how these gaps relate to the newly ranked 2022 priority list for both research and management outcomes. We found that the 2013 research priorities were largely unaddressed, with most publications and unpublished industry reports in the review period primarily reporting presence or monitoring data around areas of interest to the resources sector, with minimal focus on the species’ conservation or management directly. Therefore, the knowledge gaps identified in 2013 were still largely relevant in 2022. Further targeted research is required to meet the 2022 priorities and better understand the habitat characteristics, movement ecology, disturbance buffer requirements, and cumulative impacts of mining on Pilbara leaf-nosed bat colonies. Overall, targeted research beyond traditional mining outputs, changes to regulatory procedure, and collaborative, adaptive management, are key to supporting the long-term persistence of Pilbara leaf-nosed bats.

PC23031  Accepted 30 January 2024

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