One Health framework shows connection between humans, wildlife, and the environment
Integrating the One Health framework into bat conservation.
By Kristen Pope & Luz A. de Wit
Human health, animal population health, and ecosystem health are all intricately linked. This concept, known as One Health, provides a framework for understanding the ecological, environmental, and socioeconomic processes that occur when these systems interact. It also provides a tool to help make decisions for protecting human health, biodiversity, and ecosystem function.
This framework can be integrated into bat conservation as a way to understand how underlying socioeconomic and environmental factors may threaten bat populations and habitats, and help guide conservation efforts accordingly. Likewise, conservation efforts that protect bat populations and restore their habitats leverage the One Health framework by advancing conservation science while also benefiting society.
Bats depend on healthy forests and cave systems for roosting and foraging. Likewise, people depend on healthy ecosystems for nutrients, climate regulation, water purification, nutrient cycling, recreation, and many other ecosystem services. Bats are key players in the functioning of these ecosystems, providing services like pest control for crops, as well as seed dispersal and flower pollination for many plants that are important for food production and forest ecology.
The transformation of these ecosystems through urban, suburban, industrial, and agricultural changes in land use is one of the main drivers of habitat loss for bats and one of the main causes of bat population declines worldwide.
Aside from habitat loss due to changes in land use, bat populations are vulnerable to non-native, invasive species—which are often introduced by people, either accidentally or intentionally. For example, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), the fungal pathogen that causes White-nose Syndrome in bats, is an invasive species that was introduced to North America and is currently one of the most serious threats to several hibernating North American bat species. Likewise, domestic cats, which are considered invasive when found in feral or stray conditions, also have significant impacts on bat populations, particularly on sensitive island bats, through predation.
Human-caused environmental degradation through land use change and through the introduction of invasive species, have direct impacts on bat populations. Through collaborations with natural resource managers, natural scientists, and health experts, the One Health framework can be integrated into bat conservation efforts and identify solutions aimed to improve bat populations and bat habitat quality, while sustaining the ecosystem services provided by bats.