The best reason to protect bats isn't environmental — it's economic

Bats, let's face it, are kind of creepy. But they're vitally important, not only to their ecosystems, but also to local economies.

There are more than 1,200 different bat species in existence, and about two-thirds of them eat insects. By chowing down on bugs, they provide free pest-control services that save farmers tons of cash — in the billions of dollars, according to one estimate — in crop damage and insecticide costs.

That's great for farmers, but also good for the bats. The services they render give people an economic incentive to protect them and their environments. There are plenty of reasons to protect a given species, such as the role it plays in a healthy ecosystem, as well as its intrinsic value as a member of Earth's colorful panoply of beasts. But if those don't warm your heart, it's hard to argue with an animal that saves humans a lot of money.

However, Mother Nature is all too prone to the forces of an open market. As supply and demand shift and new competitors emerge, the value of a species' services can decline, which means the economic argument for its conservation loses strength.

Read the rest of this March 25 The Week article at the link below. A study led by Laura Lopez-Hoffman, assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, is featured in the article.

Date released: 
May 21 2014
Laura Lopez-Hoffman