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Bats face many obstacles

White-nose snydrome has the potential to devastate bats, which also are dying from impacts with wind turbines, Whidden said Feb. 25 during a lecture at Penn State Hazleton. Even before the new threats appeared to the nine species of bats regularly seen in Pennsylvania, one of them, the Indiana bat, was on the federal endangered species list, and that state listed the small-footed bat as threatened.

Cave explorers from Europe might have spread a disease that is decimating bats in the Eastern United States, a biological researcher said.

Dr. Howard Whidden said spelunkers from Europe visited the area near Albany, N.Y., where a fungus associated with white-nose syndrome was discovered in February 2006.

White-nose snydrome has the potential to devastate bats, which also are dying from impacts with wind turbines, Whidden said Feb. 25 during a lecture at Penn State Hazleton.

Even before the new threats appeared to the nine species of bats regularly seen in Pennsylvania, one of them, the Indiana bat, was on the federal endangered species list, and that state listed the small-footed bat as threatened.

Widden, an associate professor at East Stroudsburg University, said people should care about bats as they would for any threatened form of life. Bats are the major, night-time predators of insects. Without bats, mosquitoes might cause more nuisances and spread disease, bat droppings won't fertilize forests; farmers might need to apply more insecticides to crops and and moths might weaken more trees by eating leaves.

"We don't know what the effects will be," Whidden... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Cave explorers from Europe might have spread a disease that is decimating bats in the Eastern United States, a biological researcher said.

Dr. Howard Whidden said spelunkers from Europe visited the area near Albany, N.Y., where a fungus associated with white-nose syndrome was discovered in February 2006.

White-nose snydrome has the potential to devastate bats, which also are dying from impacts with wind turbines, Whidden said Feb. 25 during a lecture at Penn State Hazleton.

Even before the new threats appeared to the nine species of bats regularly seen in Pennsylvania, one of them, the Indiana bat, was on the federal endangered species list, and that state listed the small-footed bat as threatened.

Widden, an associate professor at East Stroudsburg University, said people should care about bats as they would for any threatened form of life. Bats are the major, night-time predators of insects. Without bats, mosquitoes might cause more nuisances and spread disease, bat droppings won't fertilize forests; farmers might need to apply more insecticides to crops and and moths might weaken more trees by eating leaves.

"We don't know what the effects will be," Whidden said.

Nor do researchers know how white-nose syndrome, named for coloring bats develop on their faces and sometimes their wings, triggers bats to awake from hibernation. Once roused, bats leave their caves and mines and fly outside where they die from exposure and starvation.

Whidden said there is evidence that people spread the fungus, but also evidence that bats spread it to each other.

The link to cave explorers from Europe is just a theory, he said, that arose from trying to discover how a previously-unknown fungus arrived in the United States.

Luzerne was one of the first counties where white-nose syndrome appeared in Pennsylvania in the winter of 2008-09. It spread to more counties, including Monroe and Carbon, this winter.

Susan Gallagher of the Carbon County Environmental Education Center, said she started receiving calls of bats flying seven weeks ago. The reports seem to be in a west-to-east swath through Tamaqua, Summit Hill and Jim Thorpe.

People who see bats flying in winter, when they should be hibernating, can report them to the Game Commission by telephone or through the commission's Web site.

Fred Merluzzi, a wildlife conservation officer for the commission, checks mine openings in Carbon County for bats each week. Near Hazleton, he found hundreds of dead bats in Tresckow and in lesser numbers in Coxeville and the Buck Mountain near Weatherly, he said after listening to the lecture.

Researchers from the Game Commission and Bucknell University are experimenting by vaporizing fungicides inside caves or mines while seeking to reduce the mortality.

While white-nose syndrome primarily affects cave-dwelling bats, wind turbines pose a greater danger to tree dwellers that migrate rather than hibernate.

At the Locust Ridge wind farm in Schuylkill County, Whidden and his students counted dead bats for two years. They found 555 carcasses in 2007 and 439 the next year. During the searches, they found 23 dead birds one year and 33 the next. The majority of the carcasses were tree dwellers - the hoary, red and silver-haired bats. Some cave dwellers were found dead, too; and among them the, Eastern Pippistrelle outnumbered other species.

The findings of Whidden's team correspond to other studies but initially surprised scientists. They surmised turbines would prove more deadly to birds than bats, which are famed for their ability locate objects by sound.

"They can pluck a moth and mosquitoes out of the air. How can they miss something like this?" Whidden said while gesturing toward a drawing of a wind turbine displayed on a screen behind him.

Hypotheses are that the turbines, up to 465 feet tall, attract bats especially when they're searching for mates; or perhaps, their radar isn't on full-alert while they're migrating, he said.

Research that Whidden and others are doing around wind farms found that mortality is greatest during late summer and early fall when bats migrate.

Slow winds of 4 meters per second or less account for more deaths than windier days, a finding that led to recommendations that have the potential to save bats without dramatically reducing the electricity generated by the turbines.

Waiting to turn on turbines at night until wind to reached 5 meters per second reduced bat deaths by 53 to 87 percent, according to a study by Ed Arnett and colleagues at a wind farm in Somerset County.

Waiting for wind to reach that speed reduced electricity generated by 3 percent during the study period or just 0.3 percent annually.


Source: http://citizensvoice.com/sp...

MAR 7 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/24983-bats-face-many-obstacles
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