Midwest bat populations already faced serious threats, such as the loss of habitat to development, when they were struck four years ago by a deadly disease known as white-nose syndrome. The disease is still killing bats, the endangered Indiana bat among them. How climate change will affect the situation is unclear. But just as in the case of Kentucky bats — described in a story May 11 — scientists fear climate change could add to stressors on the imperiled species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is revising its Indiana Bat Recovery Plan, first drafted in 1983, to acknowledge that concern.
“We know that temperature is very important to survival of our insectivorous bats that hibernate in caves, including Indiana bats,” says Lori Pruitt, lead Service biologist for the species. “During winter, only a small proportion of caves provide the right conditions for hibernating Indiana bats because these bats have very specific temperature requirements during hibernation. Surface temperature is directly related to cave temperature, so climate change will inevitably affect the suitability of hibernacula.”