Bats and the Ecosystem Services They Provide

Bats, still a required decor component for Halloween, are increasingly recognized as the important creatures that they are. Bats are important predators and pollinators in ecosystems throughout the world.  The benefits they provide humans are substantial - both in terms of controlling insect pests and pollinating economically important crops. Ecosystem services are the benefits that humans obtain from ecosystems that enhance their well-being. As reviewed here, bats provide many ecosystem services. Humans derive direct benefits from bats as food, guano for fertilizer, and through contributions to medicine and culture. Perhaps more significantly, yet much more difficult to quantify, humans derive indirect benefits from bats through arthropod suppression, forest regeneration, and maintenance via seed dispersal and pollination of a wide variety of ecologically and economically important plants. In turn, the contribution of these services by bats to healthy, functioning ecosystems provides additional benefits to humans by supporting vital regulatory processes such as climate regulation, nutrient cycling, water filtration, and erosion control.

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