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Here’s What Climate Change Will Mean for Bats • The Revelator

Here’s What Climate Change Will Mean for Bats • The Revelator

bats flying

The Isabelline Serotine bat(Eptesicus itabellinus).It is found in the northern part of the Sahara and the southern part the Iberian Peninsula. However, it might be time for the species’ to pack their bags.

A new studyIn Global Ecology and ConservationResearchers discovered that bat species living in areas of the world that are expected to become hotter and dryer due to climate change will need shift their habitats. For Isabelline Serotine bats that could mean a big move — more than 1,000 miles, the researchers determined.

They won’t be the only ones.

The study looked at two areas with high drought risk — western North America and the Western Palaearctic, which stretches across North Africa and Europe. They studied 43 species using three climate models and three emissions scenarios to determine where bats could move to “climate refugia” to find more suitable habitat, and which species are at the greatest risk of population decline if that journey isn’t possible or easy.

The news isn’t great. “All future emissions scenarios led to an overall reduction in predicted bat richness in both continents by 2080,” the researchers found. “Areas projected to support high species richness in the current climate coincided with greatest predicted species loss and greatest future drought risk.”

Many bat species already face threats to their habitats from development and degrading. Things are even more dire in North America. White-nose syndrome is a fatal disease caused fungus. Pseudogymnoascus destructansHas it? decimated cave-dwelling bats there, including killing more than 90% of some populations in less than a decade.

Climate change and changes in water resources are also a threat. All bats require water for survival. However, some bat species rely on water-based prey or forage close to the surface of water. Many species choose to roost near water or forage at specific locations. And previous researchResearch has shown that droughts can lead to a dramatic decline in reproduction.

researchers in water
Scientists conduct bat surveys in Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest. Photo: USFS

“While many species have evolved to survive in water-limited landscapes, an increase in the frequency, duration and severity of drought conditions may result in conditions too harsh for bat populations to persist, and is a threat to the long-term survival of many bat species,” the researchers wrote.

They found that for approximately half of the species studied, the area with a suitable temperature would shrink.

North Africa and Coastal Europe currently have the highest levels of species richness. However, they are likely to see the most species leaving. The most species loss was predicted in Western North America’s low-elevation areas of the southwest U.S.A and Mexico.

Those who are able to expand their range to find better climates will need fast movements to keep up with changing climates. Bats that can travel long distances well are more likely to find new habitat.

These factors can vary from region to region. The main factor driving relocations is temperature. In Western North America, precipitation changes are driving changes in bat populations.

As the planet warms, more species will be found in mountain and coastal regions.

Higher-elevation areas are predicted to retain the most species, including the mountains of Portugal, northern Spain, northern Italy, Mexico’s Sierra Madre, and mountainous areas of Arizona and New Mexico. Some areas along the coast were expected to be suitable for human settlement, including Mexico’s coast and California, as well as western France and southern England.

However, these places could also see additional climatic change.

“While our models predict montane and coastal areas in both regions to remain climatically suitable for the majority of bat species it should be noted that these ‘refugia’ may be influenced by additional climate effects such as sea level rise(coastal areas) and an increased incidence and severity wildfires (montane areas),” the researchers wrote. “At the highest emissions scenarios, very few lower latitude areas retained their full complement of species.”

The researchers discovered that bat species in Western Palaearctic must move faster and farther than those in western North America when it comes to shifting ranges.

For some species, there won’t be a lot of options.

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The study showed that 4-6 species in Western Palaearctic are likely not to overlap between the current and future suitable areas. This could result in population declines or even extinction. Two of them, Mehely’s horseshoe bat ((*(Rhinolophus mehelyi) and the greater noctule bat (Nyctalus lasiopterus)?Are already listed as vulnerable on IUCN Red List. In Western North American, 1-3 species face similar concerns, including Myotis thysanodes, which is likely lose 44% of its range, and for whom models show population declines greater than 90% by 2086.Specialized bats that eat nectar may face additional threats from a changing climate, such as wildfires and changes in the landscape.

“Additional factors that may determine the ability of bats to remain in landscapes with changing climates or colonize new areas include dispersal barriers, competition between species, prey and food plant availability, roost requirements,

Migratory disruption habitat fragmentation and influence of pathogens,” the study showed.phenologyThere are a few things that can be done to increase bat conservation success. Areas of refugia and water sources need to be identified — and protected. Researchers also recommend that we continue to increase global efforts to preserve biodiversity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Land managers can prioritize conservation and management activities to enhance existing protected areas and promote connectivity between current and future bat habitats,” the authors wrote. “Therefore, a commitment by world governments to significantly reduce carbon emissions should be urgently sought in order to avoid further deterioration of bat communities and the important ecosystem services that they provide.”


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The RevelatorShe has been working as a digital editor, environmental journalist, and digital editor for more than ten years. Her work has been published in The Nation? American Prospect? High Country News? Grist? Pacific StandardAmong others. She is the editor for two books on the global crisis of water.

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