Focus: Bats and Ecosystem Services
Bats contribute more than most people know to the world's eco-systems and a healthy environment. Bats, in fact, are vital to the restoration and enrichment of our eco-systems, including rainforests and other key ecological habitats. Bats also contribute to human health and well-being by performing essential eco-services such as pollination, seed dispersal and insect control.
A wealth of food and drinks, as well as medicines, come to us through the efforts of numerous bat species. The durian flower, for example, which yields a popular fruit worth more than $230 million annually in Southeast Asia, would not be able to produce its delicious fruit if flying foxes did not pollinate the lovely durian at dusk.
Bats also pollinate wild varieties of bananas. Although seedless and currently not dependent on bats, the commercial bananas we enjoy today co-evolved with bats over thousands of years. Since a single disease could devastate a global banana crop, bats' role in pollinating and dispersing the seeds of this ubiquitous fruit remain important. In a nutshell, fruit bats could keep bananas from disappearing from your favorite market sometime in the near future.
Many of the world's most valuable crop plants rely, as well, on bats: avocados, balsa wood, breadfruit, cashews, carobs, cloves, dates, figs, mangoes and peaches, to name just a few. More than 450 economically significant plant species are known to depend on bats - and the list in fact may be even longer. Bats pollinate and disperse the seeds of more than 110 plant species used to produce food and drinks and 72 plant species utilized to produce medicines. Bats also perform eco-services for 66 plant species that produce timber, 29 used to fabricate fiber and cordage, 25 needed to create dyes, 19 that make tannins and 11 that render animal feed.*
To learn more about eco-system services and how bats help foster human economies, click on the links below. (And check this page again soon for an in-depth view on "Bats as invaluable allies.")
* This summary is based on information taken from the article "Bats and Disappearing Wild Bananas," written by Ivan W. Buddenhagen, Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Davis, which appearred in Bat Conservation International's Bats Magazine (vol. 26, no. 4, winter 2008).
Links: Bats, Eco-services and Ecology
Dr. Merlin D. Tuttle, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), 20 January 2011
More than 1,200 species of bats comprise nearly a quarter of all mammals, and their ecological services are essential to human economies and the health of whole ecosystems worldwide. Guest author Dr Merlin Tuttle looks at the ecosystem services that bats provide us.
Ecosystem services are the many life-sustaining benefits we receive from nature--clean air and water, fertile soil for crop production, pollination, and flood control. These ecosystem services are important to our health and well-being, yet they are limited and often taken for granted as being free.
TEEB is a study into The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity that assesses the global economic costs of ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss. Initiated by the the G8 + 5, hosted by UNEP, supported by the European Commission, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Norway, Japan & Sweden, the study has involved over 500 world experts from science, economics, business, development and policy.
Rodrigo A. Medellin, in "Conservation of Shared Environments - Learning from the United States and Mexico", edited by Laura López-Hoffman, Emily D. McGovern, Robert G. Varady and Karl W. Flessa, University of Arizona Press, 2009.
www.myjoyonline.com, 20 September 2010
Jeff McNeely, Chief Scientist, IUCN ("Species", the SSC and Species Programme joint bi-annual magazine 2009)
"Endangered Species Research", Gareth Jones, David S. Jacobs, Thomas H. Kunz, Michael R. Willig, Paul A. Racey, 8 April 2009
www.mongabay.com, 4 April 2008