Most people don’t love bats, but like good health, you’ll realize that you miss them after they’re gone. Experts believe many species of bats may vanish pretty soon, and their disappearance could bring profound and long-term changes not only to the environment but also to agriculture, landscaping and gardening across North America.
For several years now, scientists have been sounding alarms about a devastating fungus, White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), that has literally decimated bat populations in the Northeastern U.S. The fungus leaves a white substance on the bat’s nose, wings and body, and disrupts the bat’s hibernation patterns, forcing it to burn through its fat reserves, which quickly leads to starvation. Earlier this year, a survey of the bat population in New Jersey estimated that 90% of that state’s bats had been killed off.
“This is on a level unprecedented, certainly in mammals,” says Rick Adams, a biology professor at the University of Northern Colorado and a renowned bat expert. “A mass extinction event, a thousand times higher than anything we’ve seen. It’s going through [bat colonies] like wildfire, with 80% to 100% mortality.”
Are We Witnessing the Death of Our Planet?