What's scary? A world without bats

In honor of International Bat Week, reprinted below is an excerpt from a column Andrew Bowman wrote in 2016.

By Andrew Bowman October 26, 2020

In honor of International Bat Week, reprinted below is an excerpt from a column Andrew Bowman wrote in 2016.

Like many people in the land trust community, I have had a lifelong fascination with the world's biodiversity. The abundance and variety of lifeforms is both mind-boggling and inspiring.

Given the central role that habitat conservation plays in preserving biodiversity, a career focused on conserving land has proven immensely rewarding to me. But I'll admit that I've occasionally craved a more direct connection to biodiversity conservation — something immediate, tangible and easier to observe than an important policy change or a property transaction.

That desire — along with a need for a hobby to help clear my mind — led me a few years ago to begin building bat boxes.

Bats are as important as they are threatened. As providers of pest control, pollination and seed dispersal, bats are crucial components of healthy ecosystems and economies. Yet bat populations are declining across North America as a consequence of human activities and emerging diseases. On our continent alone an estimated 6 million bats have been killed by White-nose Syndrome, an affliction caused by the cold-loving fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. As an attacker of hibernating bats, it causes mortality rates up to 100%.

Building an artificial roost gives bats near me a comfortable place to live that can lead to better reproductive success. These tall, multichambered structures are often painted in regionally specific colors that help regulate their daytime temperatures. Bat boxes in Maine, for example, are often painted black, while those in Arizona usually are white. You can learn more at Bat Conservation International's website.

While my hobby allows me to help biodiversity on a small scale, it also serves to remind me of the excellent work land trusts are doing to protect biodiversity on a larger scale. In conserving land, we conserve biodiversity.