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


Organochlorine pollution of streams and rivers, and other sources, is of major concern for bats (see Bayat et al. 2014 for review). Experimental testing of organochlorine insecticides such as DDT on two species widely distributed throughout the USA, found that Myotis lucifugus was approximately twice more sensitive than were

E. fuscus. Furthermore, juvenile E. fuscus were 1.5 times more sensitive than adults (Clark et al. 1978). In addition, tests showed that individuals of T. brasiliensis poisoned with DDT survived for some time but later died of DDT poisoning mobilized from fat during active flight after being starved (Clark et al. 1975). Laboratory studies also show that presence of organochlorine in tissues can accelerate the catabolism of fat, causing DDE-dosed bats (M. lucifugus) to lose weight faster than control bats (Clark and Stafford 1981). Although banned in the USA in 1972, significant levels of DDT and DDE have been documented in tissues collected from bats foraging and drinking at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Superfund Site (O'Shea et al. 2001). High DDT concentrations are also found in M. lucifugus tissues in the Eastern United States (Kannan et al. 2010). Furthermore, post-ban persistence of DDT in USA bats has been verified by sampling guano at roost sites (Clark et al. 1982; Reidinger and Cockrum 1978; Bennett and Thies 2007). DDT has also been found in bat tissues in Australia despite being banned since 1987 (Mispagel et al. 2004; Allinson et al. 2006). DDT for agricultural use was essential banned worldwide in 2001, but recent work from Africa showed that DDT is probably still being used and accumulating in the tissues of multiple species of bats (Stechert et al. 2014).

The two most common agricultural pollutants are nitrogen and phosphorus and sources of these pollutants include inorganic and organic fertilizers, leguminous crops, septic tanks, farm and municipal waste water treatment facilities, and, in the case of phosphorous, run-off from groundwater discharge and atmospheric deposition. An excess of these nutrients is the leading cause of aquatic eutrophication (Shabalala et al. 2013). Inorganic pollutants such as metals from agricultural and industrial run-off can also accumulate in these sites as well as in the tissues of insects using these bodies of water. Bats feedings on such insects are thus at risk of ingesting high levels of toxic metals such cadmium, chromium and nickel (see Naidoo et al. 2013).

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