Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Northeastern USA Ecosystems Under Attack

By the White-Nose Fungus. It is decimating bat populations in the Northeastern United States.
First observed in Howe Caverns near Albany, N.Y., in early 2006, white nose syndrome has spread north to New Hampshire and Vermont and south to Virginia. At least a million bats in six species have already perished, and death rates at infected hibernacula range between 90 and 100 percent.
Ninety to one hundred percent.

However, it's not just the bats which suffer, the rest of the ecosystem suffers as well:
... because bats are essential to the control of nocturnal flying insects, the outbreak could upset local ecologies, weaken the health of forests and even affect crop yields.
So how much money have we set aside to combat this fungus and syndrome? A total of 1.1 million dollars. A paltry sum of money to fight something of this magnitude.
This past May, 25 U.S. Senators and Representatives signed a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar urging emergency funding for agencies with the expertise to “determine a cause and develop solutions to this crisis.”
It's been requested that at least $17 million be set aside for immediate research efforts. Write your congressional representatives and ask them to support research to combat this disease.


soil mama said...

when I was at the mycology meeting a few weeks back, I saw a presentation on this fungus and the bats. It was very depressing.

One thing I didn't realize was that when they hibernate, they shut down their immune system which leaves them susceptible to the fungus. The bats that don't hibernate (and migrate instead) don't get it. It will be interesting to see if over time, the populations of migrating bats will increase to make up for the loss.

I would like to think that they can find a solution, but I am not too hopeful. All I can think of that could act of something on this scale that acts so quickly are supplemental heating and feeding during the winter to prevent hibernation, or massive fungicide spraying , neither of which is too practical.

Thomas Joseph said...

They talked about immunizations but I have no idea how they'd accomplish that. Spike insects known to be eaten by bats with the vaccine and then have the bats orally administer themselves?

If the fungus is relegated to the caves, (given it's abnormal growth requirements in terms of temperature) it seems that fungicide treatment of those caves might be a plausible route, no?