07 Apr '11, 6pm

Disappearing American bats are worth up to $53 billion

Bats eat a lot of bugs. Here are some living under a bridge in Austin , Texas that eat millions of pounds of pests every season. What happens if those bats are wiped out in a few years -- as it looks like they could be -- by a combination of wind turbines and a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome? A lot more bug bites, and between $3 billion and $53 billion in losses to agriculture in the U.S. Ecosystem services -- everything nature takes care of so we don't have to -- are easy to forget about until they're gone. A new analysis by Paul Cryan of the U.S. Geological Survey extrapolated those values from an acre-by-acre record of the effects of bats on the cotton-eating boll weevil. In bad years, the weevils can cost farmers up to $172 per acre in extra pesticide; that's where the high-end figure comes from. Cryan cautions that these numbers are preliminary, hence the w...

Full article: http://www.grist.org/list/2011-04-07-disappearing-america...

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