Monday, August 1, 2011

Do cave visitors and enthusiast spread the white nose disease that affect bats?

If you have visited a cave recently, make sure to sterilize your equipment, and even your clothes and shoes before visiting another site. Scientists who study bats are concerned about the spread of fungal spores from one cave to another. Before entering a cave, you may need to fill a survey or leave behind items that have been using during visits to other caves. It is important to cooperate with such requests to avoid being a disease vector.

Bats are part of healthy ecosystems. Around the world there is a great diversity of bats. Some bat species serve as predators of insects thereby controlling pest.  Some bats also provide ecosystem services by pollinating plants. A great number of bats species are frugivorous, and thus they help with seed dispersal.  A few bat species eat fish or frogs, and only a handful of species are known to feed on blood. Other animals such as snakes and birds of prey such as owls need bats as their food source.  Many plants and soil communities also benefits from bat feces known as 'guano', which is a powerful fertilizer. Overall bats are a diverse group and play key roles in natural, agro-ecosystems, and even farms.

Ecosystem Services by bats controlling pest are calculated to be around 3 billions/year --yet perhaps underestimated (Paul Cryan, USGS). Bats pollination, seed dispersal, insect controlling services or just their own value as mammals within ecosystems hasn't been estimated

More on white nose bats and potential human carriers
The News: Fungus sweeps across the country, killing bats (White nose fungus that affects bats likely transmitted by humans)
Smithsonian magazine

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