Large scale bat monitoring program spans 31 states and Canada and is designed to counter popular perception of bats and populations decline.
Bats may be feared creatures by some. However, the truth is they are harmless, fascinating and bring a wide array of benefits both to us and to the environment. These creatures of the dark are in danger of significant populations decline. Climate change, habitat loss and wind energy development projects are significant contributors to bat populations decline. Only recently another factor was added to the list: the white-nose syndrome, a disease that kills bats by the millions and is infectious.
The efforts to design a nationwide program for the monitoring and protection of bats are spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Ecologist Susan Loeb, working with the U.S. Forest Service based in Clemson, South Carolina is the lead author of the North American Bat Monitoring Program.
Long overdue and much-needed, this large scale bat monitoring program spans 31 states, as well as 10 provinces in Canada. According to the latest available data, there are 150 species of bats in North America. Of them, 47 are found in the U.S. The fascinating creatures are migrating over 500 miles to find shelter. Other bats prefer to hibernate or take shelter in caves or mines. Due to their habitat, access is often limited for researchers trying to get a grip on what bats are really all about.
The North America Bat Monitoring Program is designed to offer easier access to information on bats. Bat populations will be monitored using acoustic surveys. These are useful in detecting high-pitched frequencies emitted by the bats to be able to navigate in space. Acoustic monitoring is performed with the help of mobile monitoring, as well as stationary monitoring.
The program was jump started as a result of a massive bat populations loss in 2007. The white-nose syndrome affected millions of bats which fell ill and died. No treatment for the disease has yet been found. As such, scientists are stepping up efforts to monitor bat populations in concerned areas, as well as efficiently updating the Bat Population Data with the obtained results.
With the North America Bat Monitoring Program, scientists also hope to understand why these creatures are drawn to the propellers used in wind energy production. Part of the bat populations loss is due to the flying mammals ending up directly in the ellice.
The number of monitoring sites designated for each of the states and provinces participating in the North America Bat Monitoring Program varies. However, one common denominator unifies them all. Bats are important to a sustainable and healthy ecosystem. Just think that most of the North American species feed on insects. Tons of insects every night. Left unchecked, these can destroy vegetation and crawl into our homes.
On the other hand, another part of the bat species are very thorough pollinators. Just like bees, they feed on nectar and thus help in the process of pollinating. These creatures of the dark really deserve more recognition than they receive.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia