2021 journal article
Continued preference for suboptimal habitat reduces bat survival with white-nose syndrome
Nature Communications, 12(1), 166.
Abstract Habitat alteration can influence suitability, creating ecological traps where habitat preference and fitness are mismatched. Despite their importance, ecological traps are notoriously difficult to identify and their impact on host–pathogen dynamics remains largely unexplored. Here we assess individual bat survival and habitat preferences in the midwestern United States before, during, and after the invasion of the fungal pathogen that causes white-nose syndrome. Despite strong selection pressures, most hosts continued to select habitats where disease severity was highest and survival was lowest, causing continued population declines. However, some individuals used refugia where survival was higher. Over time, a higher proportion of the total population used refugia than before pathogen arrival. Our results demonstrate that host preferences for habitats with high disease-induced mortality can create ecological traps that threaten populations, even in the presence of accessible refugia.