Curaçaoan Long-Nosed Bat
Bruce D. Taubert

Restoring Agave for Nectar-feeding bats

Pollinator species such as the Mexican long-nosed bat and the Lesser long-nosed bat rely on agave nectar throughout their migratory range, and, as agave blossoms at night, these plants rely heavily on these nocturnal pollinators. By understanding this pollinator partnership between nectar-feeding bats and wild agave, we aim to restore agave that sustain the bat populations that rely on them.

Objectives

Protect critical roosting sites across the migratory range of pollinating bats
Restore foraging habitat surrounding roosts (50 km buffer area)
Restore foraging habitat along migratory corridors in the borderlands, focusing on increasing densities of flowering agaves in parks and protected areas

Project Details

The status of pollinators in the US-Mexico borderlands has emerged as a critical conservation issue because of their importance to agriculture, biodiversity conservation, and ecosystem function. Three species of nectar-feeding bats serve as primary pollinators for keystone desert plants in Mexico and the southwestern United States. Roost disturbance and habitat loss led to the rapid decline of these bats.

Populations of the Mexican long-nose bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) decreased by 50% over the last ten years. We will protect known roosts while continuing to grow a range- wide restoration effort to enhance foraging habitat in proximity to critical roost sites.

Our research agenda will expand to identify culturally and environmentally suitable sites for agave restoration and provide direction to target specific areas to create resilient nectar corridors for migratory movements. To address the bi-national landscape scale of the operation, we will develop diverse partnerships. These will help us expand the capacity to grow and plant locally adapted and sourced agave plants in the form of seed and nursery material in areas of highest impact for bat conservation.

Bats Need Agave

Native to the hot and arid regions of the Southwestern United States, Mexico, Central and South America, agaves spend their lives building up sugars for the moment when they send a massive flowering stalk up into the sky. The nectar-rich flowers serves as an essential food source for hungry migrating bats, including the bi-nationally endangered Mexican long-nosed bat and the lesser long-nosed bat. These bats will follow the agave bloom northward, where they will give birth to their young, before returning south in the fall.

Bat Conservation International (BCI) is promoting agave restoration as well as educational efforts for mescal producers and the broader public about the important role of bats for agave pollination.

Our core goal is to protect and enhance existing agave habitats and encourage the growth of new agave stands to facilitate and sustain the migration pathways of nectar-feeding bats. Our ten-year plan calls for expansive agave plantings and better management of agave habitat throughout the region.

We will plant 100,000 agaves to restore nectar bat populations migratory corridors within the Southwest U.S., West Texas, and Northern Mexico.

By leading dynamic collaborations with our partners, we are happy to announce that one of the nectar-feeding bats, the Lesser-long nosed bat, was recently removed from the IUCN’s Endangered Species List. Through creative thinking and measurable conservation plans like these we can end bat extinctions, one species at a time.

Dan Taylor Senior Restoration Specialist
Drew Beamer