Bats Are Doing Better in Areas Recently Affected by Fire
Mon, April 19, 2021

Bats Are Doing Better in Areas Recently Affected by Fire


Many studies have proven that wildfires have detrimental impacts on the world’s forests and ecosystems. But, as our forests suffer from these fires, they have also learned to adapt from them. Research now shows that California’s forest ecosystems have evolved to live with and even rely on some amount of seasonal fire. Thus, western US has started to adopt prescribed burning while the only two wilderness areas in the Sierra Nevada have allowed managed wildfires.

“If we’re able to reintroduce fire to the Sierra Nevada, that’s going to improve habitat,” ecologist Zack Steel of University of California, Berkeley, said. 


Credits: Los Angeles Times


But, forests are not the only ones that have learned to adapt to the impacts of wildfires; many bat populations have, too. In one study, researchers surveyed 17 bat species in six different sites: three hadn’t seen fire in recent years, while three recently faced wildfires such as the 2013 Rim Fire, 2004 Power Fire, and 2012 Chips Fire. They recorded the ultrasonic squeaks of bats doing echolocation, which revealed that the fires left behind a patchwork of differently burned areas or ecological “pyrodiversity.”


Credits: Ars Technica


The study published in Scientific Reports showed that bat populations are doing better in areas recently affected by fire, compared to areas that had grown thick from years of fire suppression. The researchers discovered that eight species of bats were found in unburned areas, while 11 thrived in the fire-affected ones. “We expected to see one group of species benefiting from fire—the more open-habitat-adapted species—and another group, the more clutter-adapted species, being negatively affected by fire, preferring the unburned areas. But even some of those species were occurring more often in burned areas,” Steel said. 


Credits: The Nature Conservancy


According to Smithsonian Magazine, the official journal published by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., bats are not the only species hurt by a lack of moderate wildfires. It also includes birds such as owls, bees, and certain plants, which have evolved to rely on a healthy dose of heat. “The crisis is not the number of fires, it’s that we have too many bad fires and too few good fires,” Stephen Pyne, a leading scholar of forest fire history, of Arizona State University said. 




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