OOS 13-1 - Keynote: Ecosystem services provided by bats and their roles in ecosystem health

Tuesday, August 9, 2011: 8:00 AM
16A, Austin Convention Center
Thomas H. Kunz, Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, Boston University, Boston, MA

Ecosystem services are the benefits obtained from the environment that increase human well-being. Economic valuation is conducted by measuring the human welfare gains or losses that result from changes in the provision of ecosystem services. Bats have long been postulated to play important roles in arthropod suppression, seed dispersal and pollination; however, only recently have these ecosystem services begun to be thoroughly evaluated. Consumptive goods provided by bats, such as food and guano, are often exchanged in markets where the market price indicates an economic value. Non-market valuation methods can be used to estimate the economic value of non-consumptive services, including inputs to agricultural production and recreational activities.


We review the available literature on the ecological and economic impact of ecosystem services provided by bats. We describe dietary preferences, foraging behaviors, adaptations and phylogenetic histories of insectivorous, frugivorous and nectarivorous bats in the context of their respective ecosystem services. For each trophic ensemble, we discuss the consequences of these ecological interactions on both natural and agricultural systems. Throughout this review we highlight the research needed to fully determine the ecosystem services in question. Finally, we provide a comprehensive overview of economic valuation of ecosystem services. Unfortunately, few studies estimating the economic value of ecosystem services provided by bats have been conducted; however, we outline a framework that could be used in future studies to more fully address this important question. Information on the ecological and economic value of ecosystem services provided by bats are used to inform decision makers regarding where and when to protect or restore bat populations and associated habitats, as well as to improve public perception of bats.

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