Ecosystem Services of Pteropodid Bats, with Special Attention to Flying Foxes (Pteropus and Acerodon) in Sulawesi, Indonesia

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Pteropodid bats, especially flying foxes, are threatened by hunting in Indonesia. Scientific data on bat ecosystem services are lacking, yet these data are needed to promote their conservation. This study aims to investigate 1) bat pollination services for durian using a pollination exclusion experiment and camera trapping; and 2) flying fox ecosystem services by identifying pollen collected from fur. We conducted our study in Sulawesi for eight months (May-December 2017). We found that bats are the primary durian pollinator. Three bat species pollinated durian flowers: Eonycteris spelaea (mean duration of visit: 116.87 sec/visit), and two flying foxes, Pteropus alecto (11.07 sec/visit) and Acerodon celebensis (11.60 sec/visit). Durian flowers visited by both small bats (E. spelaea) and flying foxes produced slightly more fruit than flowers visited only by the small bats, suggesting flying foxes are presumably more effective pollinators. Bat pollination services for durian are valued at ~$117/ha. Additionally, we collected pollen from 52 individuals of Pteropus griseus and 33 individuals of A. celebensis. We identified ~14 plant species used by flying foxes. These plants are economically valuable to the local livelihood and ecologically essential to the Sulawesi rainforest and mangroves. The two flying fox species provided distinct ecosystem services, with A. celebensis functioning more as seed dispersers and P. griseus as pollinators. Information learned through this research should be used to foster conservation of flying foxes to prevent the loss of productivity of plant species that rely on them, and preclude the loss of benefits they provide to human well-being.

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