Bats play major role in protecting plants from insects

April 4th, 2008 - 3:37 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 4 (ANI): Researchers have shown that bats can play a major role in significantly reducing insect abundance and damage on plants.

Researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) reported this role of bats in plant protection.

As part of their research, the researchers noted that in a lowland tropical rainforest in Panama, bats can consume roughly twice as many plant-eating insects as do birds.

A previous study by the authors had suggested that bats were underestimated predators of plant eating insects, based on video recordings of feeding events.

In the current study, Margareta Kalka and Adam Smith from the Smithsonian, along with Elisabeth Kalko, institute staff scientist and professor at the Institute of Experimental Ecology at the University of Ulm, separated the insect-control effects of bats and birds by placing netting enclosures over five common tropical plant species only at night or only by day.

Uncovered control plants accessed by both bats and birds lost merely 4.3 percent of their leaf area to insect herbivores.

When only birds were excluded, plants lost 7.2 percent of their leaf area. When only bats were excluded, plants lost a striking 13.3 percent of their leaf area, demonstrating that in the tropical forest understory, bats can be more effective pest control agents than birds.

According to Phyllis Coley, STRI research associate and University of Utah professor, considers this study to be a major contribution: The role of insect predators, such as birds and bats, is key to plant survival, he said.

The researchers have said that from the report, it becomes clear that bats play an extremely important role in the food chain in the tropics and probably in temperate areas as well.

Therefore, bats should be considered in both conservation planning and in management strategies for agricultural areas, they added. (ANI)

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