Scientists suggest a roadmap to tackle disease which has killed over one million bats
California, February 2011 – Conservationists across the United States are racing to discover a solution to White-Nose Syndrome, a disease that is threatening to wipe out bat species across North America. A review published in Conservation Biology reveals that although WNS has already killed one million bats, there are critical knowledge gaps preventing researchers from combating the disease.
WNS is a fatal disease that targets hibernating bats and is believed to be caused by a newly discovered cold-adapted fungus, Geomyces destructans, which infects and invades the living skin of hibernating bats. Since 2006 about one million bats across six species in eastern North America have died from WNS, and as a result several species of bats face endangerment or extinction.
“White-Nose Syndrome was first documented in 2006 in a tourist cave near Albany, New York. Dead and dying bats were then found in four nearby caves, 30 km west of Albany,” said lead author Janet Foley from the University of California, Davis. “By July 2010 G.destructans was identified in hibernating bats in 13 states as well as in Ontario and Quebec across the Canadian Border.”
Affected bat species include the endangered Indiana and gray bats (Myotis sodalis and M. grisescens), little brown bat (M. lucifugus) and the cave bat (M. velifer). Infection has also been confirmed in five species of bats in Europe, although no similar epidemic has yet been recorded.
The low temperatures and humid conditions of bat caves create ideal breeding grounds for this fungus, and in some bat colonies the mortality rate from WNS has been more than 95%.
“Some bats in infected bat colonies behave abnormally when infected, choosing to hibernate in exposed places, such as cave entrances or even flying during the day,” said Foley. “Bats regularly arouse from hibernation in order to drink, urinate and relocate. This causes them to burn up their only source of energy during winter, the body fats they stored prior to winter when insect prey was still available. Fungal infection might be leading to more frequent arousals from hibernation, causing infected bats to use up their fat reserves earlier, with potentially fatal consequences.”
Although the effects of the disease are all too apparent, there are critical knowledge gaps for researchers confronted with combating the disease. It remains unclear if G. destructans is the only pathogen involved, how it causes mortality, and its means of transmission. Some evidence suggests that people can move the fungus from cave to cave.
“Our study considers how epidemiology and disease ecology can help fill these knowledge gaps,” said Foley. “We believe that a roadmap including bat monitoring and disease surveillance, coupled with active research into finding ways to treat individual bats will be vital to combating this disease.”
“Based on current data, we believe that the culling of bats would be both premature and ill-advised. Instead we see efforts to conserve the genetic diversity of bat populations, combined with a program of educating the public to be key parts of the roadmap.”
Dr Foley’s team includes bat and disease ecologists from three different public agencies and academia and tries to make the point that creative, scientifically-sound ideas will be key to the success of any management plans. The group outlines an outbreak investigation framework that includes establishment of diagnostic standards, case definitions, and gathering of information on potential treatments for similar diseases.
The importance of monitoring bat population health is also stressed, as is improving public education and awareness of the disease, especially as many species of bats live in caves popular among tourists. If current declines in bat populations continue, the researchers expect strong reductions in the ability of bats to reduce insect pests and play important ecological roles in unique cave ecosystems.
The team also call for further studies of the chemical or biological agents that can kill the fungus, but have yet to be proven safe for bats.
“In the three years since its discovery WNS has changed the focus of bat conservation in North America,” concluded Foley.. “A national response is required and our epidemiological roadmap is designed to help inform state and national efforts to combat WNS across North America.”
This study is published in Conservation Biology. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact [email protected]
A Greener Footprint for the Global Leader of Green Racing
In an effort to support environmental efforts globally, the American Le Mans Series will join forces with AMERICAN FORESTS to support its “dollar-a-tree” Global ReLeaf program.
Throughout the 2010 season, Series teams, manufacturers, corporate partners and fans will have multiple ways to learn about the Series’ green racing initiatives and contribute to the program.
In support of AMERICAN FORESTS’ goal to plant 100 million trees by 2020, the Series pledges to plant more than 5,000 trees in 2010 to restore ecosystems that have been damaged by fire, disease, other natural disasters and overdevelopment.
This global outreach initiative acts in conjunction with the Series’ progressive “green” leadership on-track – namely through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy and SAE International-supported MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge, a season-long competition that measures each race car’s efficiency and greenhouse gas emission levels during competition.
“Since its inception, the American Le Mans Series has been at the forefront of developing green initiatives and solutions in motorsports,” said American Le Man Series President and CEO Scott Atherton.
“We are very proud of our efforts with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy as they relate to our on-track efforts. Our involvement with American Forests enables us to contribute to similar solutions away from the race track and is another way the American Le Mans Series can advocate for a greener tomorrow.”
With the implementation of the Green ReLeaf campaign, the Series will begin every race weekend by displaying a Survivor tree in the paddock. The Survivor Elm – donated by the Series and its teams through AMERICAN FORESTS’ Historic Tree program – will encourage fans to do their part for the planet in a number of ways:
• Purchase the Series “To a Greener Tomorrow. Faster” organic t-shirt or its 2010 Spotters Guide Poster, where all proceeds go to AMERICAN FORESTS’ Global ReLeaf
• Donate – on-line and at the track – to win a chance for a hot lap around the track, on behalf of the Series’ Vitesse Program
• Donate a dollar to plant a tree at-track and online at americanlemans.com
For every three trees planted, roughly one ton of carbon will be sequestered, allowing for over 1,666 tons of CO2 to be taken out of the atmosphere overall, and every acre of trees planted (approx. 340-490 trees) by the Series will offset about the amount of CO2 produced by driving a car 26,000 miles, or about twice the amount the average driver drives per year.
“American Forests is pleased to partner with the American Le Mans Series to underscore the positive steps they’re making in the development of green initiatives,” said Gerry Gray, acting executive director of AMERICAN FORESTS. “Through their contribution goal of 5,000 trees, and their display of the Historic Survivor Tree – an important symbol of human resilience, and a tribute to renewal and rebirth – the Series is helping to create a cleaner environment for future generations.”
AMERICAN FORESTS is the nation’s oldest nonprofit conservation group, dedicated to growing a healthier world with trees. Our work encompasses planting trees for ecosystem restoration through our Global ReLeaf program, calculating the value of urban forests, fostering environmental education, and improving public policy for trees. AMERICAN FORESTS also maintains the official listing of the largest-known trees of their species in the United States. We have a goal to plant 100 million trees to restore damaged ecosystems in the U.S. and around the world by 2020.
AMERICAN FORESTS’ Historic Tree program (historictrees.org) brings history alive by propagating and selling the offspring of trees connected to significant historical people, places and events, offering a unique way for people to connect to the past while being part of a sustainable future. The Historic Tree program helps people understand how trees benefit us all – environmentally, socially, and economically.
The original Survivor Tree in downtown Oklahoma City bore witness to one of the nation’s most notorious terrorist attacks. Today a plaque around the tree reads, “The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.”
The American Le Mans Series, based on the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans, is the only motorsports body in the world that features multiple street-legal alternative energy sources – clean diesel, E10 and E85 cellulosic ethanols, and new hybrid technologies. The American Le Mans Series has taken a leadership role in motorsports for the furthering of alternative fuel technology and use. It also illustrates deeper the Series’ relevance to its list of prestigious manufacturers and affluent customer base.
The American Le Mans Series will open its 12th season with America’s greatest sports car race, the 58th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida from March 17-20. The green flag will fall at 10:35 a.m. on Saturday, March 20 with live coverage on SPEED. Visit the American Le Mans Series’ schedule page for ticket and accommodation information. The annual American Le Mans Series Winter Test is scheduled for February 22-23, also at Sebring International Raceway. American Le Mans Series cars will be on track from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. both days. Tickets are $10 per day with no public paddock access or overnight camping. Live Timing & Scoring will be available on americanlemans.com..
You can follow the Series on Twitter (almsnotes) and the Series’ Facebook page and official YouTube channel.
Environmental non-profit seeks to honor youth activists & environmentalists
(San Francisco, January 28, 2010) — Action For Nature, a San-Francisco-based non-profit, is now taking applications for the 2010 International Young Eco-Hero Awards, which honor youth ages 8 to 16 for their outstanding accomplishments in environmental advocacy, environmental health, research and protection of the natural world.
Award recipients will receive up to $500 cash, an award certificate, and other forms of recognition. The application deadline is February 28, 2010.
Action For Nature’s mission is to encourage young people to take personal action to nurture and protect a healthy environment on which all life depends. Now in its eighth year of the International Young Eco-Hero Awards, the organization has honored 90 young people from 13 countries and 24 states in America..
Previous award winners have continued to receive other prestigious leadership, environmental and science awards, such as the Brower Youth and Intel Science awards. They’ve also taken part in local, national and international media interviews.
Alec Loorz, a 2008 award winner, has continued to educate youth and adults about global warming and has spoken to more than 20,000 people. Alec, who is now 15, is the youngest member of Al Gore’s speaking panel, and was recently asked to assist with a presentation before the U.S. Senate.
Former award winner Otana Jakpor, 16, researched air purifiers and ozone emissions and successfully advocated for change in California. Her findings resulted in the first-ever state regulation of ozone-generators. She has since been honored by the Environmental Protection Agency and has become an official spokesperson for the American Lung Association. She has also had her work published by several science journals.
For more information about the International Young Eco-Hero Awards, as well as to view the guidelines and application forms, visit www.actionfornature.org.
Guidelines and applications are available at:
Please help spread word of this award opportunity by sending this press release to friends, family and organizations you know, and/or publishing this announcement in your listservs or publications..
Additional information available upon request.
Contact: Lauren LaPage, 415-513-2421