Economic importance of bats in agriculture

White-nose syndrome (WNS) and the increased development of wind-power facilities are threatening populations of insectivorous bats in North America. This important paper presents analyses suggesting that loss of bats in North America could lead to agricultural losses estimated at more than $3.7 billion/year. An excerpt of the paper is provided below. The full paper can be downloaded by clicking on the link(s) below.


A wait-and-see approach to the issue of widespread declines of bat populations is not an option because the life histories of these flying, nocturnal mammals- characterized by long generation times and low reproductive rates-mean that population recovery is unlikely for decades or even centuries, if at all. Currently, there are no adequately validated or generally applicable methods for substantially reducing the impacts of WNS or wind turbines on bat populations. To date, management actions to restrict the spread of WNS have been directed primarily toward limiting anthropogenic spread (e.g., cave and mine closures and fungal decontamination protocols). Other proactive solutions for understanding and ameliorating the effects of WNS include developing improved diagnostics to detect early-stage infections and fungal distribution in the environment; defining disease mechanisms; investigating the potential for biological or chemical control of the fungus; and increasing disease resistance through habitat modification, such as creation of artificial or modified hibernacula that are less conducive to disease development and transmission. Other approaches, such as culling of infected bats have been widely discussed and dismissed as viable options for control. New research also shows that altering wind turbine operations during high-risk periods for bats significantly reduces fatalities. Specific action on these issues will benefit from scientific research carefully aimed at providing practical conservation solutions for bats in the face of new threats and at assessing their economic and ecological importance. We as scientists should also make concerted efforts to develop and use more effective methods for educating the public and policy-makers about the ecosystem services provided by bats.

Bats are among the most overlooked, yet economically important, non-domesticated animals in North America, and their conservation is important for the integrity of ecosystems and in the best interest of both national and international economies. In our opinion, solutions that will reduce the population impacts of WNS and reduce the mortality from wind-energy facilities are possible in the next few years, but identifying, substantiating, and applying solutions will only be fueled in a substantive manner by increased and widespread awareness of the benefits of insectivorous bats among the public, policymakers, and scientists.

Bats And Agriculture

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APR 1 2011
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