Bats are often feared and even more often misunderstood. Bats in the United States, however, are under attack but not from the most likely sources but from a fungal disease. Soon people on the East Coast may not even have to fear bats at all as they may not even exist there in two decades.
While bats are often seen as pests, they actually play a pivotal role in the ecosystems where they reside. There are approximately 1,000 bat species, which is nearly a quarter of all mammalian species discovered to this point. Bats play major roles in insect control and as pollinators, roles which are often forgotten but result in significant savings for farmers. However, it may become glaringly obvious if bat species population numbers plummet.
Bats in North America are currently facing severe declines due to white-nose syndrome caused by a fungal pathogen. Nearly six million bats have succumbed to the disease in nineteen U.S. states and four Canadian provinces. The disease is spreading and decreasing bat populations in some areas by eighty percent. As bats battle the fungal disease, a new study finds that all bat species may also be battling with climate change and losing overall.
Researchers publishing their findings in the journal Mammal Review studied forty-seven bat species found in North America and Europe. However, the effects of climate change are likely to impact many of the over 1,200 bat species inhabiting the planet. The researchers analyzed previous observations of how climate change has impacted bat populations, finding that of the forty-seven analyzed, thirty-eight were facing an uphill battle with climate change.
According to their findings, some bat species will discover problems due to specific situations, such as droughts, while many may have an overall adverse reaction to climate change effects. Issues with finding food and having to go to greater distances to obtain food will increase, which will add to bat dehydration. Bats dehydrate more quickly than other species due to the inability to effectively retain water. Bats will also face issues with rising temperatures as temperatures indicate when to come out of hibernation.
In addition to the above reasons, bats also face a greater likelihood of death under conditions of drought and high heat during heat waves, a major issue for species which cannot retain water. Bats which currently live at high elevations and latitudes also face dilemmas in that they cannot easily move to find cooler regions to live.