Bats have long been an object of fascination, as well as of repulsion in some cultures. Associated with some folk tales that paint them as bloodthirsty creatures, when many
more species are actually insectivores or fruit eating, they have been exterminated on a large scale in some parts of the world. These unique animals, the only true flying mammals, are crucial to biodiversity. They are known as an ‘indicator species’, meaning that changes to their population is an indication of the health of our environment.
They also play an important role as pollinators, spreading plants’ seeds and as a natural pest predator. Bat Guano is full of nitrogen and phosphorus, important ingredients for fertilizers. Not only that, bats are used medically. When they bite their prey, they insert a anticoagulant, medically that could be of vital use. Because they use echolocation, scientist are interested in using echolocation for navigational purposes .
I Just Gotta Eco Ya:
- Would you believe that that over 500 plants need bats to pollinate their flowers. Those plants include Agave (Tequila), Cocoa (Chocolate), mangos, bananas, guava and more.
- And they eat insects, which feed upon our food plants. In fact, bats are an ‘important ‘pest management service’ in cotton farming in Brazil.
- According to the researchers, a single colony of 150 big brown bats in Indiana eat nearly 1.3 million insects a year — insects that could potentially be damaging to crops.
- Scientists estimate by 2020, wind turbines will have killed 33,000 to 111,000 annually in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands alone.
Due to loss of habitat, poor farming methods and widespread use of pesticides, wind turbines and White-nose Sundrome (fungal disease) bats have been facing serious threats from human activity and have seen their numbers decrease at an alarming rate, with a quarter of the world bat population now threatened with extinction.
The economic impact is huge. In fact according to Science Daily, The economic impacts of the loss of bats in North America in agriculture alone is about $22.9 billion a year.
To protect bats, several national and international programs have been launched, all reliant on close monitoring through regular surveys. Surveys are indeed key to this effort as they are the only way to measure accurately variations in the size of bat populations, their locations and movement, and how they respond to changes in their habitat.
Surveys allow greater understanding of what factors are important for bats’ survival, assess what is harmful or beneficial to them, pinpoint which species need most urgent attention and consequently adjust human activity accordingly and devise conservation strategies. They also provide invaluable information to local authorities and governments when it comes to granting or denying planning permissions to property developers and individuals alike, which will be partly based on such surveys when bats are present on or near a potential construction site.
Bats are skilled predators and often at the top of the food chain so a decline of their population can also be a warning sign that their surroundings and environment have become unbalanced. For example that insect populations, their food source, is in danger, or that the development of an area has been too extensive and deprived them of trees suitable for roosting, and of safe ‘commuting’ paths or good foraging sites.
Bats are elusive and easily disturbed, it is paramount to their well-being that surveys be conducted by professionals who know what to look for and how to monitor bats without affecting them.
Bottom line, you see bats, welcome them!