Bird and bat predation services in tropical forests and agroforestry landscapes

Bea Maas, Daniel S. Karp, Sara Bumrungsri, Kevin Darras, David Gonthier, Joe C.C. Huang, Catherine A. Lindell, Josiah J. Maine, Laia Mestre, Nicole L. Michel, Emily B. Morrison, Ivette Perfecto, Stacy M. Philpott, Çagan H. Şekercioğlu, Roberta M. Silva, Peter J. Taylor, Teja Tscharntke, Sunshine A. Van Bael, Christopher J. Whelan, Kimberly Williams-Guillén

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


Understanding distribution patterns and multitrophic interactions is critical for managing bat- and bird-mediated ecosystem services such as the suppression of pest and non-pest arthropods. Despite the ecological and economic importance of bats and birds in tropical forests, agroforestry systems, and agricultural systems mixed with natural forest, a systematic review of their impact is still missing. A growing number of bird and bat exclosure experiments has improved our knowledge allowing new conclusions regarding their roles in food webs and associated ecosystem services. Here, we review the distribution patterns of insectivorous birds and bats, their local and landscape drivers, and their effects on trophic cascades in tropical ecosystems. We report that for birds but not bats community composition and relative importance of functional groups changes conspicuously from forests to habitats including both agricultural areas and forests, here termed ‘forest-agri’ habitats, with reduced representation of insectivores in the latter. In contrast to previous theory regarding trophic cascade strength, we find that birds and bats reduce the density and biomass of arthropods in the tropics with effect sizes similar to those in temperate and boreal communities. The relative importance of birds versus bats in regulating pest abundances varies with season, geography and management. Birds and bats may even suppress tropical arthropod outbreaks, although positive effects on plant growth are not always reported. As both bats and birds are major agents of pest suppression, a better understanding of the local and landscape factors driving the variability of their impact is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1081-1101
Number of pages21
JournalBiological Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank all scientists, field assistants, local communities and research funders supporting ecosystem-service research for their contribution to a better understanding of these complex services and their relationship to human well-being, biodiversity conservation and land-use management. Your hard work and commitment on several field exclosure studies greatly promoted the literature in that field within recent years and not only provides the theoretical background for this review but facilitates real-world implications for land-use management and biodiversity conservation in many areas worldwide. We wish to thank Ed Turner and one anonymous reviewer for their valuable suggestions. B.M., K.D. and T.T. were supported by the DFG (CRC 990 EFForTS), P.J.T. and T.T. by the BMBF (SPACES: Limpopo Living Landscapes), P.J.T. by the South African National Research Foundation, Department of Science and Technology, University of Venda and Southern African Macadamia Growers' Association. D.S.K. was supported by a NatureNet Science Fellowship from the Nature Conservancy. J.J.M. was supported by a grant from Bat Conservation International. N.L.M. was supported by Environment Canada and the University of Saskatchewan. L.M. was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Research and Innovation (MICINN-FEDER: CGL2007-64080-C02-01/BOS, CGL2010-18182). K.W.G. was supported by NSF grant #DBI-0610473 and Bat Conservation International, as well as by a NSF grant #DEB-0349388 to I.P. R.M.S. was supported by the State University of Santa Cruz and the Mars Center for Cocoa Science.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Cambridge Philosophical Society


  • agricultural landscapes
  • arthropod suppression
  • bird and bat ecology
  • cacao
  • coffee
  • ecosystem services
  • exclosure experiments
  • flying vertebrates
  • food webs
  • pest suppression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)


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