Saturday, January 21, 2012

In Bat Deaths, a Catastrophe in the Making?
A “biodiversity crisis”: that’s how some conservationists describe new numbers released this week by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service on so-called white-nose syndrome. According to the agency, 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats have died from the fungal ailment in eastern North America since an epidemic first broke out in upstate New York in 2006.

The new numbers are striking, and far higher than the previous bat mortality estimate of one million released in 2009, yet it is hard to put the number into perspective because researchers lack baseline data for many bat species populations from before the disease started demolishing colonies.
What is known is that when the fungus gets into a cave or mine where bats are hibernating, 70 to 90 percent of the bats die. In some cases, the mortality rate is 100 percent.

Over the past three years, the disease has spread from 88 sites in nine states in 2009 to at least 200 sites in 16 states today....  There are 45 species of bats in North America, 26 of which are hibernating species potentially susceptible to the fungus. While the disease has infected only six species so far, some researchers worry that it could wipe out as many as 20 bat species in the next few years.

Researchers have estimated that bats save farmers at least $3.7 billion a year by keeping down crop pests (see

Ann Froschauer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service emphasized that each bat species fulfills a specific ecological purpose.... “Different species eat different things, hunt in different locations and fit into the ecological puzzle in a unique way,” she said. “Losing one bat species would be huge — losing 20 would be catastrophic.”
by Joanna M. Foster
The New York Times Green Blog
January 19, 2012

No comments:

Post a Comment