Global Warming Impacts Bats: New Study Says Climate Change Hurts Bat Communities

on December 12 2013 5:48 AM

Not only is climate change taking a toll on Arctic sea ice, the rise in the globe's temperature could also affect bat communities around the world, according to a recent study published in the Royal Society Interface Tuesday.

A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Germany found that climate change could hamper some bat species' ability to hunt effectively using sound.

Bats are nocturnal, able to fly in the dark by releasing ultrasonic sounds, which bounce back to them after hitting an object. This way they are able to avoid flying into houses, trees and other fixtures as well as stalking prey.

The research found that changes in air temperatures could impact the bats' abilities to navigate in the dark when hunting prey, known as echolocation.

Sound waves that travel through the air are affected by several factors, including humidity, wind and heat, causing the sound to lose its volume and clarity. Low-frequency sounds are less impacted than high-frequency sounds.

As global temperatures rise, certain bats living in temperate regions, which use high-frequency chirps, may face more challenges than bats living in tropical regions, which use low-frequency chirps.

“Global warming can thus directly affect the prey-detection ability of individual bats and indirectly their interspecific interactions with competitors and prey,” the report stated.

The study follows a recent report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) that said the amount of greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere hit a record high in 2012, continuing an upward trend driving climate change.

The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in the past 800,000 years, the WMO's 5th Annual Assessment Report stated.

Since the start of the industrial era in 1750, global average CO2 has increased by 41 percent, methane by 160 percent and nitrous oxide by 20 percent, the U.N. agency stated.

CO2, the single-most-important greenhouse gas on a global scale, reached 393.1 parts per million last year, or 141 percent of pre-industrial levels before 1750. The amount in the atmosphere increased 2.2 parts per million from 2011 to 2012, which is above the average (2.02ppm) of the past 10 years.

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