Media & Education
BATS Magazine

Volume 38, Issue 2, 2019

A Pressing Matter

Global bat populations need research and conservation action


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A scientist holds an endangered Mexican long-nosed bat. Photo: W.Frick.

Bat species around the world are threatened by a range of human-related activities and require expanded research and data collection for better protection. In a recent paper in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences titled, “A review of the major threats and challenges to global bat conservation,” Bat Conservation International scientists Winifred Frick and Jon Flanders, and Tigga Kingston from Texas Tech University, show that 80% of bat species require research or conservation attention based on data available from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Bat populations face a host of pressing threats, including traditional threats to biodiversity such as habitat loss and bushmeat hunting, as well as newer threats such as mass die-offs from heat waves due to climate change and the spread of the disease White-nose Syndrome.

Almost one-third of bat species are considered data-deficient by the IUCN. Data gaps hinder identifying and prioritizing conservation action and are more severe in areas of highest bat diversity. Islands and caves are two habitats of special importance for focusing bat conservation efforts.

Bats make up one-fifth of mammal species around the world and are important contributors to ecosystem health. Bats are especially beneficial for agriculture and reforestation, as many species consume crop-eating insects and other species are valuable seed dispersers. Nectar-feeding bats are important pollinators, and some commercially valuable plant species around the world rely on bat pollination.

“Bats are taxonomically and ecologically diverse and face dire and complex threats,” said Frick. “Although the scope of the conservation problem can feel overwhelming, there is progress happening all the time. With sustained efforts to address the research and conservation needs, we can make meaningful progress toward protecting bat populations on a global scale.”

 

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