Someone save bats from extinction. Because bats, effective spies of climate change, are among the animals most sensitive to global warming. Not all species, really. Some may perish, others even gain a competitive advantage. Their response to solicitations excites the experts. And a new wave of popularity could therefore affect an order of mammals already overwhelmed, in the years of the pandemic, by a significant media echo, "with negative consequences for their public image", as denounced by a singular scientific article published in the journal Mammal Review with the title "Covid-19,media coverage of bats and related Web searches: a turning point for bat conservation?".
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This time, however, it is the mathematical models that predict the expansion or contraction of ranges in the future of bats. Hypothesis, on solid scientific foundations, put forward by a research team coordinated by Danilo Russo, an ecologist at the Department of Agriculture of the Federico II University of Naples, who has been pursuing this line of research for several years.
And in short, several species, starting with thesouthern earlobe (Plecotus austriacus), with particular reference to its distribution area in southern Europe, are deeply threatened by rising temperatures. A problem for everyone, because the bats will stop exterminating the harmful insects in the agricultural areas where today they render this important ecosystem service", notes Russo. To address this transnational problem, he directs a COST action financed by the European Union, called CLIMBATS, a clear play on words, which brings together numerous scientists from 28 different countries, committed, since 2019, to collecting data and developing forecasts on the future of bats and the harmful insects they feed on in a climate change scenario.
In this first phase of the study, the Italian team started from the already certified variations in distribution and then associated them with various environmental factors, including temperatures and rainfall. What's more: radio transmitters capable of recording body temperature have been applied to the body of some bats. Two, in particular, are the species that would seem favored by climate change: the pipistrello albolimbato and the Savi's bat. The former has increased its distribution in Europe by more than 400% in recent decades; the second species, also expanding, is capable of tolerating surface body temperatures of over 46°C.
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But even for the two potentially winning species, complex times are ahead. "Because even for the pipistrello albolimbato and the pipistrello di Savi, as recently demonstrated by one of our studies, the summer heat waves (which in 2023 will reach record levels, as attested by the WMO, the World Meteorological Organization, ed) coincide with an increase in admissions to recovery centres wildlife. - explains Russo - It is probable that the animals are victims of a real one shock thermal, which causes them to fall from the shelters. At this point, in the luckiest cases, they are noticed by citizens who entrust them to recovery centres, offering them a second chance. In the majority of cases, however, unnoticed and rescued animals are doomed to certain death, exposed as they are to dehydration, predation by house cats and other hazards they face outside the protection of their shelters."
And therefore also the least threatened bats since climate change they will have to deal with his own dangerous side effects. One more reason to fight global warming. "Also because - concludes Russo - there is no doubt that a planet without bats would be poorer and certainly with more pesticidesnecessary to fight the insects that until now are kept at bay by bats".