The ecological effects of a decreasing bat populations are difficult to determine, although it most certainly is negative. Much of these effects can be surmised by observing the niche inhabited by the bat species of the United States.
- Prey impact: Bats are huge predators of bugs, especially of those that constitute pests of the agricultural industry. They hunt at night and eat flying insects such as mosquitoes, beetles and moths. Without bats to control the population of crop-consuming insects, farmers are sure to face increasing pest-control problems. A study1 placed their value to North American farms around $23 billion a year.
- Plant impact: Bats that inhabit the tropics of Mexico and Asia are important pollinators of fruits like guava, banana, and mango. Bats in the United States are more likely to play a large role in fertilization of the grass and prairie lands they inhabit. Guano, or bat fecal matter, is exceptionally rich in nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. These three minerals are generally the most important for a plant’s growth.
- Medical impact: Medically speaking, bats are an incredible source of medical potential. From their system for seeing in the dark, to their ability to emit communications through echolocation, to the enzymes in their saliva, which helped us understand how to prevent blood clotting during heart surgery. If we lose a species without learning about it, we lose out on biomedical research that could benefit humans as a whole.
1Boyles et al., 2011