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

The Issue of Ecosystem Disservices of Bats to Agricultural Production

Unfortunately, while the ecosystem services provided by bats are largely invisible, their disservices are obvious. In the Paleotropics, crop raiding by frugivorous pteropodids can cause substantial losses of commercial fruits (see Aziz et al., Chap. 12). For example, in Indian vineyards, Cynopterus sphinx damages up to 90 % of the crop along peripheries of plantations and may cause revenue losses of up to US $590 per ha and year (Srinivasulu and Srinivasulu 2002). In the Neotropics, sanguivorous vampire bats can cause substantial economic damage: Estimates for 1968 placed losses at $47.5 million USD for over 512,000 rabiesrelated cattle deaths in Latin America (Arellano-Sota 1988). Harassment by vampire bats can put cattle off their feed, resulting in annual weight losses estimated at roughly 40 kg/head and milk production loss of 261 L/head (Schmidt and Badger 1979). These estimates fail to take into account the effects of vampire bats on the medium and small domestic animals (e.g., chickens, pigs, goats) that provide critical sources of animal protein for millions of smallholder farmers across the region.

Not surprisingly, farmers with first-hand experiences of economic losses engendered by bats are more likely to have negative attitudes or report a willingness to destroy bat roosts (Reid 2013). Failure to explicitly address the negative impacts of some bat species likely reduces the efficacy of conservation messages; meanwhile, practical measures to reduce these disservices could benefit multiple bat species by reducing indiscriminate persecution. Different functional groups provide most of the ecosystem services (insectivores, nectarivores) and disservices (frugivores, sanguivores). However, local farmers may not distinguish between these groups. For example, farmers and agricultural technicians in Latin America often attempt to cull vampire bat populations by destroying bat roosts; unfortunately, the widespread belief that all bats are “vampiros” frequently results in the destruction of colonies of beneficial bat species (Mayen 2003; Aguiar et al. 2010). If local people perceive the ecosystem services of one bat group as offsetting the damages of another, then an ecosystem service approach could provide a framework for bat conservation more broadly. Unfortunately, the extent to which knowledge of ecosystem services changes attitudes toward bats in developing countries remains unknown.

 
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