New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that bats are important nocturnal predators of insects that would otherwise attack crops. In addition, bats help to protect crops from fungal infections brought on by pests and are important pollinators. According to the new research, the pest-control services provided by bats for corn crops alone is worth about 1 billion dollars on a global scale. In a quote published in the BBC news, study author Josiah Maine (Southern Illinois University) said, "The results of this study are a testament to the value of ecosystem services."
The concern is that populations of bats have been decimated by white nose syndrome, a disease we have talked about in prior posts (See: White nose syndrome and WNS revisited). In fact, according to the US National Wildlife Health Centre, the disease is associated with a reduction in bat populations in the northeastern United States by ~80%. This decline is likely to have a major impact on agriculture.
For prior posts on white nose syndrome see:
Maine JJ, Boyles JG. Bats initiate vital agroecological interactions in corn. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2015 [Epub ahead of print]