Ecological connectivity in sky island bats of the Ethiopian Highlands

Project Funder: British Ecological Society

Project Collaborators: Mohammed Kasso (Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia), Javier Juste (EBD, Spain), Helena Santos (CIBIO, Portugal)

Tropical highland ecosystems are highly sensitive to global change, especially in under-studied areas like Ethiopia that are threatened by extensive anthropogenic habitat loss and degradation. We are studying how these sky islands and the intervening landscape matrix shape the genetic diversity and distribution of their unique fauna, focusing on the little known diversity of the Ethiopian Highlands’ Plecotus bat community.

  • As part of three international expeditions we visited five main mountain ranges of the Ethiopian Highlands in south (Bale Mountains and Mount Chilalo), north (Simien Mountains and Abune-Yosef) and center (Guwasse).
  • We sampled bats at two high altitude zones: high elevation juniper forest tree line (2500-3200m) and Afro-alpine meadows with rocky outcrops (>3800m).
  • We are combining genetic markers with different evolutionary rates and modes of inheritance to determine patterns of genetic diversity, population structure and gene flow within and between mountain ranges. We aim to identify diversity hotspots and isolated populations of conservation concern.
  • We are using the landscape genetics approach to identify landscape elements that facilitate or impede movement between sky islands across the agricultural and urban matrix.

Ethiopian Highland Bats project