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Home arrow Environment arrow Bats in the Anthropocene: Conservation of Bats in a Changing World

Bats in the Anthropocene

Christian C. Voigt and Tigga Kingston

Abstract Humans have inadvertently changed global ecosystems and triggered the dawn of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. While some organisms can tolerate human activities and even flourish in anthropogenic habitats, the vast majority are experiencing dramatic population declines, pushing our planet into a sixth mass extinction. Bats are particularly susceptible to anthropogenic changes because of their low reproductive rate, longevity, and high metabolic rates. Fifteen percent of bat species are listed as threatened by the IUCN, i.e., they are considered Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. About 18 % of species are Data Deficient, highlighting the paucity of ecological studies that can support conservation status assessments. This book summarizes major topics related to the conservation of bats organized into sections that address: the response of bats to land use changes; how the emergence of viral and fungal diseases has changed bat populations; our perception of bats; and drivers of human–bat conflicts and possible resolutions and mitigation. The book ends with approaches that might advance bat conservation through conservation networks and a better understanding of human behavior and behavioral change.

1 The Emergence of a New Geological Epoch: The Anthropocene

The world in which we live is fragile; a small layer of organismic activity covers the planet like a microbial film on top of a large boulder. Nonetheless, humans treat the Earth as if anthropogenic impacts on this delicate biological layer may be absorbed by unfailing natural buffers. Yet, convergent and overwhelming evidence from all over the world underlines that mankind has already changed and continues changing the face of our planet. Among the many transformations humans imposed on our planet, some of the most severe appear to be (1) the addition of more than 550 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere which are the main drivers of global climate change and ocean acidification (Gray 2007; Ciasi and Sabine 2013), (2) the alteration of the global nitrogen cycle by the use of artificial fertilizers (Canfield et al. 2010), (3) the routing of more than one third of global primary production to human consumption (Krausmann et al. 2013), (4) the ongoing mass extinction of species (Barnosky et al. 2011), and (5) the globalization of transport which has resulted in the spread of invasive species and pathogens (Lewis and Maslin 2015). It is now widely recognized that global ecosystem services may be inadvertently suffering from human action, because human-induced environmental impacts are overriding natural process that have dominated our planet for millions of years (Steffen et al. 2011).

In the face of lasting human impacts on the Earth's geological conditions and processes, many scientists, beginning with Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000, now posit that our actions have brought us to the dawn of a new geological epoch—the Anthropocene. The pros and cons regarding this definition, which literally means “Human Epoch” and would succeed the Holocene, are still heavily debated (Monastersky 2015). Yet skeptics are declining in number, and much of the current debate focuses on the exact beginning of the Anthropocene, generally considered to be c. 1800. The Anthropocene working group of the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy reports to the International Commission on Stratigraphy with a proposal to formalize the Anthropocene in 2016. For the purpose of this book, we do not refer to an exact starting point of the Anthropocene, but merely acknowledge the fact that humans have an impact on virtually all global ecosystems and that wildlife species such as bats (order Chiroptera) have adjusted to these changes, experienced substantial population declines, or gone extinct.

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