Western Ghats bats face extinction due to deforestation: study

21 Aug 2015


A number of bat species are facing extinction due to deforestation in the Western Ghats, according to a new study.

To study the impact of rainforest fragmentation and plantations on bats, a team of researchers from National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, and University of Leeds in the UK surveyed bats in the southern Western Ghats.

According to the observations of the researchers several species were facing difficulty in the transformed landscape, there were also reasons to hope, though, that remaining forest fragments and wildlife-friendly agriculture could offer a lifeline.

The researchers found that while bats did not favour tea plantations, some species could survive in coffee plantations.

''The Western Ghats region is the eighth most biodiverse place in the world but has the highest human population of any of the biodiversity hotspots,'' said professor John Altringham from University of Leeds in the UK.

According to Altringham, human intervention and self-centred development had left only 6 per cent of the original habitat in the region.

He further added that bats were one of the best-known bioindicators and helped in analysing the effect of humans on our flora and fauna. The study on bats suggested imbalance in the ecosystem.

''Historical land use change and development has left only six percent of the original habitat in the region. By looking at bats which are excellent bioindicators, we are able to learn not only what these changes in the environment mean for bats, but also for wildlife in general,''  Altringham pointed out.

According to the survey nearly all the bat species found in Western Ghat were near to extinction and only concerted conservation efforts could save the species.

To support the growing human population forests are being constantly cleared for cultivating land and housing.

If the current trend of forest cover loss in the Western Ghats continues, it would pose a serious threat to the survival of several species in the region.

the study points out if bats and other wildlife are to thrive in the ghats, a careful balance of land use is necessary.

Remnant forest patches and shade-grown coffee act as refuges for wildlife, which can then, to some extent, make use of tea plantations and other agricultural areas. In the tea plantations that keep forest patches on their land, especially along rivers, many bat species can thrive.

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