The Role Of Bats In The Ecosystem
Bats play a major role in a significant number of environments all around the world which cannot simply go unnoticed. The impact of bats is felt both in the ecology of plants and animals.
For instance, some plants partially or completely depend on bats in order to spread their seeds or have their flowers pollinated. Also, bats are known to feed on insects and would, therefore, serve as a regulator of insects spread in the ecosystem.
Bats may also serve as ‘indicator species’. This is due to the fact that changes observed in bay species may also be an indication of changes in certain aspects of biodiversity.
In addition, bats may also experience problems with their nutrition when there is a problem in insect populations on which they depend.
All of these go on to show just how important bats are in the ecosystem and here are the major roles that they play.
Bats are a very essential part of the general native wildlife. In a country like the UK, they account for almost one-third of the general population of mammal species.
In addition, they are known to occupy a range of habitats that include wetlands, farmland, woodlands and even the urban environment.
The fact that they are a major predator of common nocturnal insect species makes them very sensitive to changes that may occur in land-use practices.
This implies that their activities can tell a lot about the state of the environment.
Drastic changes that they undergo such as agricultural intensification, landscape change, as well as habitat fragmentation are relevant to other wildlife species and therefore make them great indicators of changes in habitat wildlife.
For the most part, bats are regarded as pests. However, they are also very effective pest controllers. Thousands of insects are consumed every night by bats thereby reducing the rate at which insects multiply.
Most bats are insectivores and help to get rid of bugs that affect plants as well as insects like mosquitoes that cause various illnesses.
For instance, the Brazilian free-tailed bat has been recognized as a vital “pest management service” in cotton farming.
Since insects help get rid of insects, this reduces the amount of money that has to be spent on pest control.
Talking about pest control, and agricultural practice like that would have a very negative impact on bats. An increase in the use of pesticides may imply that bats would go hungry as a result of a lack of insects to prey on.
Seed Dispersers and Reforesters
Just like birds, bats play a vital role in the speed of trees and other plants via seeds of course.
When some tropical fruit bats consume and digest fruits, they sometimes carry the seeds inside them and then excrete the seeds in a different location after a while.
These seeds already have their own ready-made fertilizer which helps them germinate and grow fast. Since bats help in pollination and seed dispersal, they inadvertently play a major role in ensuring the regrowth of forests after deforestation.
Furthermore, recent research on neotropical bats in Central and South American forests suggests that even small bats have a major role to play in seed dispersal.
Since these forests have already been cleared and fragmented, habitat loss and hunting have wiped out large populations of large animals like macaws and deer.
It was initially believed that many large-sized animals would have no way of dispersing seeds without these animals.
The researchers went on to study seed dispersal at random both underneath the tents of tentmaker bats and at random through the forest.
The studies showed that there was an occurrence of a significant number of large seeds underneath the tents that should be typical.
This implies that tentmaker bats may indeed play a vital role in dispersing as much as 44-65 large-seeded plant species all through the forest
Over 500 species of plants rely on bats in order to have their flowers pollinated. Species such as banana, mango, guava, durian, and agave (which is used in making tequila) are pollinated by bats.
It is otherwise known as chiropterophily. In return, the bats depend on the fruits and flowers of these plants in order to survive.
An example is the lesser long-nosed bat that is somewhat responsible for pollinating the agave plants.
Bats are known to travel together in colonies or camps and this may sometimes constitute a nuisance. Therefore, control of bats is also a vital part of the big picture.
Also, destruction or poor management of habitats can also constitute problems to bats. Certain bats reside only in large woodlands and would obviously face problems if this occurs.
Their role in the ecosystem is massive and cannot be understated.