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By Marie Quinney
Biodiversity is critically important – to your health, to your safety and, probably, to your business or livelihood.
1. Biodiversity Ensures Health and Food Security.<p>Biodiversity underpins global nutrition and food security. Millions of species work together to provide us with a <a href="https://www.cbd.int/health/doc/Summary-SOK-Final.pdf" target="_blank">large array of fruits, vegetables and animal products essential to a healthy, balanced diet</a> – but they are increasingly under threat.</p><p>Every country has indigenous produce – such as wild greens and grains – which have adapted to local conditions, making them more resilient to pests and extreme weather. In the past, this produce provided much-needed micronutrients for local populations. Unfortunately, however, the <a href="http://www.fao.org/3/a-i1620e.pdf" target="_blank">simplification of diets, processed foods and poor access to food have led to poor-quality diets</a>. As a result, <a href="https://www.bioversityinternational.org/research-portfolio/diet-diversity/biodiversity-for-food-and-nutrition/" target="_blank">one-third of the world suffers from micronutrient deficiencies</a>.</p><p>Three crops – wheat, corn and rice – <a href="https://enviroliteracy.org/food/crops/" target="_blank">provide almost 60% of total plant-based calories consumed by humans</a>. This leads to reduced resiliency in our supply chains and on our plates. For example, <a href="http://www.fao.org/3/a-i1620e.pdf" target="_blank">the number of rice varieties cultivated in Asia has dropped from tens of thousands to just a few dozen; in Thailand, 50% of land used for growing rice only produces two varieties</a>.</p><p>People once understood that the conservation of species was crucial for healthy societies and ecosystems. We must ensure this knowledge remains part of our modern agricultural and food systems to prevent diet-related diseases and reduce the environmental impact of feeding ourselves.</p>
2. Biodiversity Helps Fight Disease.<p>Higher rates of biodiversity have been linked to an increase in human health.</p><p>First, plants are essential for medicines. For example, <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Nature_Economy_Report_2020.pdf" target="_blank">25% of drugs used in modern medicine are derived from rainforest plants</a> while <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Nature_Economy_Report_2020.pdf" target="_blank">70% of cancer drugs are natural or synthetic products inspired by nature</a>. This means that every time a species goes extinct, we miss out on a potential new medicine.</p><p>Second, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/news.2010.644" target="_blank">biodiversity due to protected natural areas has been linked to lower instances of disease</a> such as Lyme disease and malaria. While the exact origin of the virus causing COVID-19 is still unknown, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5711306/" target="_blank">60% of infectious diseases originate from animals</a> and <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/631980-Machalaba-Anthropogenic%20Drivers%20of%20Emerging%20Infectious%20Diseases.pdf" target="_blank">70% of emerging infectious diseases originate from wildlife</a>. As human activities encroach upon the natural world, through deforestation and urbanization, we reduce the size and number of ecosystems. As a result, animals live in closer quarters with one another and with humans, creating ideal conditions for the spread of zoonotic diseases.</p><p>Simply put: <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/news.2010.644" target="_blank">more species means less disease</a>.</p>
Human activity is eroding biodiversity. World Economic Forum Nature Risk Rising
3. Biodiversity Benefits Business.<p>According to the World Economic Forum's recent <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Nature_Economy_Report_2020.pdf" target="_blank">Nature Risk Rising Report</a>, more than half of the world's GDP ($44 trillion) is highly or moderately dependent on nature. Many businesses are, therefore, at risk due to increasing nature loss. <a href="https://wwf.panda.org/our_work/biodiversity/protected_areas/arguments_for_protection/goods_services/medicine/" target="_blank">Global sales of pharmaceuticals based on materials of natural origin are worth an estimated $75 billion a year</a>, while natural wonders such as <a href="https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/all_publications/living_planet_report_2018/" target="_blank">coral reefs are essential to food and tourism.</a></p><p>There is great potential for the economy to grow and become more resilient by ensuring biodiversity. <a href="http://wedocs.unep.org/xmlui/handle/20.500.11822/31813" target="_blank">Every dollar spent on nature restoration leads to at least $9 of economic benefits.</a> In addition, <a href="https://www.foodandlandusecoalition.org/global-report/" target="_blank">changing agricultural and food production methods could unlock $4.5 trillion per year in new business opportunities by 2030</a>, while also preventing trillions of dollars' worth of social and environmental harms.</p>
4. Biodiversity Provides Livelihoods.<p>Humans derive approximately <a href="https://livingplanetindex.org/home/index" target="_blank">$125 trillion of value from natural ecosystems each year</a>. Globally, <a href="http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/water/wwap/wwdr/2016-water-and-jobs/" target="_blank">three out of four jobs</a> are dependent on water while the agricultural sector employs over <a href="https://www.conservation.org/priorities/livelihoods" target="_blank">60% of the world's working poor</a>. In the Global South, forests are the source of livelihoods for <a href="https://www.conservation.org/priorities/livelihoods" target="_blank">over 1.6 billion people</a>. In India, forest ecosystems contribute <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19915547" target="_blank">only 7% to India's GDP yet 57% of rural Indian communities' livelihoods</a>.</p><p><span></span>Ecosystems, therefore, must be protected and restored – not only for the good of nature but also for the communities that depend on them.</p><p>Although some fear environmental regulation and the safeguarding of nature could threaten businesses, the "restoration economy" – the restoration of natural landscapes – provides more jobs in the United States than most of the extractives sector, with the potential to create even more. According to some estimates, the restoration economy is worth <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0128339" target="_blank">$25 billion per year and directly employs more than the coal, mining, logging and steel industries altogether</a>. Nature-positive businesses can provide <a href="https://www.greenbiz.com/article/10-things-you-need-know-about-restoration-economy" target="_blank">cost-effective, robot-proof, business-friendly jobs</a> that stimulate the rural economy without harming the environment.</p>
5. Biodiversity Protects Us.<p>Biodiversity makes the earth habitable. Biodiverse ecosystems provide <a href="https://www.nature-basedsolutions.com/" target="_blank">nature-based solutions</a> that buffer us from <a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_protect.html" target="_blank">natural disasters such as floods and storms</a>, <a href="https://digital.iucn.org/water/nature-based-solutions-for-water/" target="_blank">filter our water</a> and <a href="https://www.naturebasedsolutionsinitiative.org/publications/the-superior-effect-of-nature-based-solutions-in-land-management-for-enhancing-ecosystem-services/" target="_blank">regenerate our soils</a>.</p><p>The <a href="https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/miracle-mangroves-coastal-protection-numbers" target="_blank">clearance of over 35% of the world's mangroves for human activities</a> has increasingly put people and their homes at risk from floods and sea-level rise. If today's mangroves were lost, 18 million more people would be flooded every year (an increase of 39%) and annual damages to property would increase by 16% ($82 billion).</p><p>Protecting and restoring natural ecosystems is vital to fighting climate change. Nature-based solutions could provide <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/114/44/11645" target="_blank">37% of the cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed by 2030</a> to maintain global warming within 2°C (35.6 F).</p><p>Natural ecosystems provide the foundations for economic growth, human health and prosperity. Our fate as a species is deeply connected to the fate of our natural environment.</p><p>As ecosystems are increasingly threatened by human activity, acknowledging the benefits of biodiversity is the first step in ensuring that we look after it. We know biodiversity matters. Now, as a society, we should protect it – and in doing so, protect our own long-term interests.</p>
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By Lamfu Fabrice Yengong and Sylvie Djacbou Deugoue
Biodiversity loss is a global crisis. In May last year, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warned that over 1,000,000 species are threatened with extinction worldwide. On May 22, the International Day of Biodiversity, it is important to recall the silent victims of our country's obsession for industrial growth at the expense of our forests.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Liz Kimbrough
The side of the road isn't usually thought of as ideal habitat. But for insects, such as butterflies and their caterpillars, the long expanses of land along roads and utility corridors add up to a considerable amount of home turf.
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By Akito Y Kawahara
Editor's note: According to recent press reports, two Asian giant hornets – a species not known to occur in North America – were found in northwest Washington state in late 2019, and a hornet colony was found and eliminated in British Columbia. Now scientists are trying to determine whether more of these large predatory insects are present in the region. Entomologist Akito Kawahara explains why headlines referring to "murder hornets" are misleading.
1. How Common Are These hornets in Asia, and How Much Alarm Do They Cause?<p>The Asian giant hornet (<em>Vespa mandarinia</em>) is fairly common in many parts of Asia, where it is called the "Giant hornet." Growing up in Japan, I saw them relatively frequently in the mountains outside of Tokyo.</p><p>These insects are large and distinctive, with a characteristic orange head and black-banded orange body. Like any other social wasp, they will defend their nest if the colony is disrupted. But in most cases they will not do anything if people aren't aggressive toward them.</p><p>Giant hornets have longer stingers than a honeybee's, and hornets do not break off their stingers when they sting. Because hornet stingers can puncture thick clothing, people should avoid hornets and their nests whenever possible.</p>
2. Are You Surprised That the Hornets Have Appeared in North America?<p>To some degree, yes. Most likely, a single, fertile queen hornet entered Canada via shipping packaging and created the colony that was discovered in 2019.</p><p>It's easy for invasive species to travel this way. More than 19,000 cargo containers <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/policing-americas-ports-108008881/" target="_blank">arrive daily at U.S. ports</a>, and inspectors can only do random searches of shipping containers. One estimate suggests that just <a href="https://www.ncrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/jrnl/2001/nc_2001_haack_004.pdf" target="_blank">2% of shipments</a> are searched for evidence of harmful organisms such as plant pests. Many invasive species are intercepted, but some do get through.</p><p>It's very unlikely that an entire colony of hornets was transferred to North America. Colonies of this hornet are often large, and the hornets would be visible and potentially aggressive if their nest were disturbed.</p><p>A genetic test indicated that one of the hornets found in Washington was <a href="https://news.ucr.edu/articles/2020/05/06/murder-hornets-invade-headlines-not-us" target="_blank">not related to the Canadian colony</a>, but those results have not been published or peer reviewed. The Giant hornet has not been found in 2020 in either the U.S. or Canada.</p>
Four wasp and hornet species often confused with the Giant hornet. Upper left: European hornet (Vespa crabro). Upper right: Common aerial yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria). Lower left: European paper wasp (Polistes dominula). Lower right: Baldfaced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata). gailhampshire (upper left), Gilles Gonthier (upper right), Judy Gallagher (bottom images), all via Flickr, CC BY
3. What Kind of Conditions Do These Insects Need to Live?<p>Giant hornets are fairly common in mountainous regions of Asia, but they're not often seen in large cities or highly urbanized areas. They usually nest at the base of large trees and inside dead logs. The fact that they can't tolerate extremely hot or <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/25008806" target="_blank">cold temperatures</a> makes it unlikely that they would spread to very hot or cold areas of North America.</p><p>If active colonies are discovered in 2020 in the Pacific Northwest, which has a more temperate climate, it's possible that they could spread there. However, it is unlikely that this would happen quickly, as foraging ranges of <em>Vespa</em> are only <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185172" target="_blank">about 2,300 feet (700 meters) from their nest</a>.</p><p>The key to prevent spread is surveillance. Anyone in the Pacific Northwest should be alert for Giant hornets while they are outdoors this summer and fall.</p>
4. If More Hornets Are Found, Could They Threaten Honeybees and Other Pollinators?<p>Possibly. Some media posts have described destruction of honeybee nests by what could have been Giant hornets, but honeybees are not these insects' only prey. The hornets feed on different kinds of insects, and bring captured dead prey back to their hive to feed to their young.</p><p>In Japan, beekeepers surround their hives with <a href="https://shop.r10s.jp/diokasei/cabinet/suzume/imgrc0068904247.jpg" target="_blank">wire screen nets</a> to protect them from hornets. North American beekeepers can replicate these with wire netting from local hardware stores.</p><p>Many honeybees in Asia have the ability to protect their hive from intruding Giant hornets by <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2007.07.033" target="_blank">scorching them</a>. They wait for a hornet to enter their nest, then mob it by surrounding it completely with their bodies. Each honeybee vibrates its wings, and the combined warming of honey bee bodies raises the temperature in the center of the cluster to 122 degrees F (50 degrees C), killing the hornet. Carbon dioxide levels in the nest also increase during this process, which contributes to the hornet's death.</p>
5. Are News Stories About “Murder Hornets” Overreacting?<p>Yes, very much so. In parts of Japan, people consider these hornets beneficial because they remove pests, such as harmful caterpillars, from crops. They are also thought to contain nutrients, and have been used as ingredients in <a href="https://www.splendidtable.org/story/the-japanese-tradition-of-raising-and-eating-wasps" target="_blank">Japanese food and some strong liquors</a>. Some people believe the hornets' essence has medicinal benefits.</p><p>People who live in Vancouver, Seattle or nearby should certainly take note of what these insects look like. They are 2 inches long or more, with a <a href="https://extension.psu.edu/asian-giant-hornets" target="_blank">3-inch wingspan</a>, and have distinctly orange heads and broad striped orange and black-banded abdomens. That's different from typical North American hornets, which have yellow or white bodies with black marks.</p><p>In the unlikely case that you see a Giant hornet in Washington state, do not try to remove nests yourself or spray hornets with pesticides. Cutting down trees to prevent nesting sites is also unnecessary, and can affect many other kinds of native wildlife, including beneficial insects that are needed for pollination and decomposition. Many native insects are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ento-011019-025151" target="_blank">declining globally</a>, and it's important to make sure these insects are not affected.</p><p>Instead, take a photo from a distance and report it to the <a href="https://agr.wa.gov/departments/insects-pests-and-weeds/insects/hornets" target="_blank">Washington State Department of Agriculture</a>. Photos are essential to verify that identifications are accurate.</p><p>Consider also uploading your images to <a href="https://www.inaturalist.org/" target="_blank">iNaturalist</a>, which is one of the primary sources for information on tracking wildlife. The images are archived and carry data, such as location, time of observance and the insect's morphological features, that scientists can use for research. </p>
A solar and battery storage project large enough to power the residential population of Las Vegas received final approval from the Department of the Interior on Monday, despite concerns from some conservationists about the project's impact on the threatened Mojave desert tortoise.
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By Courtney Lindwall
If you're one of those people cooped up safely at home, with creative energy and free time to spare—count yourself lucky. Here, we've rounded up a list of two dozen environmental projects that can make your time indoors, or right outside, a little brighter. Whether you're ready to start rescuing more of your kitchen scraps, sewing your own cloth napkins, or documenting those backyard butterflies, we hope these simple green ideas will provide a calming means of coping during these unprecedented times. Have fun and stay safe.
Experiment in the Kitchen<p><strong>Spice up mealtime with recipes from </strong><a href="https://savethefood.com/recipes/" target="_blank">Save the Food</a> that will also help prevent your food from going to waste. Make a fromage fort to spread on your crackers, or "scraps falafel" to use up wrinkly onions and wilted herbs. And for dessert, how about some <a href="https://savethefood.com/recipes/leftover-mashed-potato-apple-cider-donuts" target="_blank">leftover mashed potato apple cider donuts</a>? </p><p><strong>Rescue wilting herbs.</strong> Make <a href="https://savethefood.com/storage" target="_blank">herb oil ice cubes</a><a href="https://savethefood.com/storage" target="_blank"> by </a>packing diced herbs into an ice cube tray, covering with olive oil, and freezing. Thaw for ready-made flavor in your next dish. You can also transform less-than-fresh herbs into sauces, like chimichurri or pesto, or roast them and mix with salt to create longer-lasting seasonings. </p><p><strong>Start a windowsill herb garden. </strong>You'll need some seeds or a small plant, an upcycled container like a coffee canister that leaves room for growth and drainage, and a sunny ledge. (The Herb Society of America can help you determine <a href="https://www.herbsociety.org/hsa-learn/intro-to-herbs/hsa-gardening-for-kids/light-indoor-gardens.html" target="_blank">the right dose of light and water for each species</a>.) In a few weeks' time, you'll be ready to add a sprig of fresh basil to your bowl of pasta or diced cilantro to your batch of guac.</p><p><strong>Arrange a plant-based recipe swap</strong> with friends and family, which will reduce your diet's climate impacts while creating some virtual community. (Remember: If <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/sujatha-bergen/saving-planet-starts-our-plates" target="_blank">every American cut just one hamburger</a> or about a quarter pound of beef out of their diet each week, we could reduce emissions by as much as taking about 10 million cars off the road each year.)</p>
Enjoy a Dose of Nature<p><strong></strong><strong>Make your own basic bird feeder</strong> using pine cones, twine, nut butter, and birdseed. <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B-rxsVfAvaa/" target="_blank">This video from the Feminist Bird Club shows you one way to do it.</a> Hang it on a nearby tree you can spot through your window, then grab a pair of binoculars and do some armchair birding!</p><p><a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-and-why-be-seed-savior" target="_blank"><strong>Create an herbarium</strong></a>—a scrapbook of pressed, dried flowers or other plants. To prepare your samples, press the plant matter in a large book or between sheets of newspaper and place a weight on top. When the leaves are dry, mount them on acid-free paper to preserve them, and label each specimen on the page. You can also include illustrations, photographs, seed packets, and notes.</p><p><strong>Sharpen your naturalist ID skills.</strong> Try to identify every species of plant in your backyard or on a neighborhood walk. You can do the same for wildlife—and share your findings through <a href="https://www.projectnoah.org/" target="_blank">Project Noah</a>, a citizen science platform to discover, share, and identify wildlife.</p><p><strong>Grow new indoor plants</strong> with the use of stems and leaves, rather than seeds. Though it <a href="https://www.bbg.org/gardening/article/how_to_propagate_houseplants" target="_blank">depends on your individual plant</a> species, propagating houseplants is often as easy as cutting off a stem or leaf from an existing plant and sticking it in soil or fresh water. If it takes, a new root system should form within a few weeks—leaving you with a hearty second plant within a few more months. (Pro tip: This works for green onions too! Nearly submerge their sliced-off roots, end down, into a glass of water that you change every few days. Voilà: a nearly endless supply of scallions.)</p><p><strong>Observe monarch butterflies</strong> in your backyard and share your findings with Monarch Watch, an organization devoted to their <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/monarch-butterflies-get-head-start-schoolyard" target="_blank">conservation</a>. Each year, monarchs make a remarkable 3,000-mile trek from as far north as the southern parts of Canada to the mountains of Mexico and back—but these pollinators are <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/sylvia-fallon/monarch-butterfly-numbers-fall-again" target="_blank">in danger</a>. Register as one of Monarch Watch's citizen scientists to <a href="https://monarchwatch.org/calendar/?fbclid=IwAR1bawlAoraeMokwdiZa_GVONQqtDnqQxc_EM_UwzbO0zhq733PT6CQIgLc" target="_blank">help track the population's health</a>.</p><p><strong><a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-turn-your-patch-earth-barren-bountiful" target="_blank">Boost your backyard biodiversity</a>. </strong>Plant some milkweed—the main food source for monarch caterpillars and egg-laying habitat for the butterflies. Hang a bee nesting box somewhere it can get sunlight and warmth. Add a barn owl box or attach a simple roosting perch to a pole. For reptile enthusiasts, set up a small wood pile, using brush or old logs as shelter for lizards and snakes (plus fungi).</p>
Do Some Handiwork and Art Projects<p><strong>Make face masks </strong>for your friends, family, and workers on the frontlines. This <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/DIY-cloth-face-covering-instructions.pdf" target="_blank">Center for Disease Control guide</a> breaks down different techniques. If you're comfortable sewing, you'll just need two 10-by-6-inch rectangles of fabric, two pieces of elastic, and a needle and thread for each mask. The no-sew option only requires a T-shirt and scissors. Remember: Cloth masks should be cleaned regularly (the CDC says a washing machine is sufficient) in order to remain effective.<strong></strong></p><p><strong>Get your crayons out </strong>and do some therapeutic coloring. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and as part of a collaboration with NRDC, Studio Number One and its creative director, artist Shepard Fairey, have converted some of its archival activist artwork into <a href="http://www.studionumberone.com/free-downloads" target="_blank">black-and-white printouts for at-home coloring.</a></p><p><strong>Tackle your plastic bag stash</strong>, especially if your city or town is among those that recently banned the bag. Since current conditions may eliminate collection and recycling programs for plastic bags in your area, consider upcycling them instead. There are plenty of online tutorials for how to make outdoor pillow cushions stuffed with plastic bags, weave bags into <a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-basket-out-of-plastic-bags/" target="_blank">sturdy baskets</a>, or wind them into jump ropes.</p>
Build Your Community<p><strong></strong><strong>Start an environmental movie club.</strong> Various apps let you host movie nights with friends online, so you can chat while you watch. You can find our recs for standout environmental films on <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B-QNBxqJAUR/" target="_blank">Instagram</a>—including <em>Poisoning Paradise</em>, <em>Virunga</em>, and <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-turn-your-patch-earth-barren-bountiful" target="_blank"><em>The Biggest Little Farm</em></a>—with short summaries and tips on where you can find them online.</p><p>Document the environmental changes in your community<strong>, as they relate to climate change, through the </strong><a href="https://earthchallenge2020.earthday.org/" target="_blank"><strong>Earth Challenge </strong>2020's online portal</a>. The project will collect billions of observations in air quality, plastic pollution, and insect populations, and your insights will help promote policy change to address our warming world.</p><p><strong>Tune in to a new podcast</strong>. We recommend <a href="https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/range/hot-take-4#/" target="_blank"><em>Hot Take</em></a>, featuring NRDC's own Mary Heglar and her cohost Amy Westervelt, which takes a critical but constructive, intersectional look at how climates issues are being covered in the media. And despite the weighty content of the podcast, laughter is one of its defining sounds.</p><p><strong>Connect with climate justice activists</strong> by following along with <a href="http://thisiszerohour.org/our-actions/#actions" target="_blank">Zero Hour's Getting to the Roots digital series</a>. Each week, it focuses on a different theme that is a root cause of the climate crisis as well as ways to solve it—through digital leadership training, webinars, virtual open mics on Instagram and Twitter, art competitions, and podcast releases.</p><p><strong>Write a </strong><a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-write-successful-letter-editor" target="_blank"><strong>letter to the editor</strong></a> that tackles one of the environmental issues facing your community that's close to your heart. The letter can be written in response to a piece that's already been published by a given media outlet, or it can be a proactive statement of support for or opposition against a particular issue that affects fellow readers. It's the perfect way to reach thousands of individuals and still remain publicly engaged without having to leave the comfort of your home.</p>
By Tara Lohan
As we work to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists are also studying its origins. How did the SARS-Co-V-2 virus, which causes the disease, jump from wildlife to humans? Many believe it originated in horseshoe bats (from the genus Rhinolophus), which are known hosts of other coronaviruses.
Bat Conservation International's chief scientist Winifred Frick. Winifred Frick
Given what we know so far about the origins of the virus, should people be scared of wild bats?<p>In zoonotic disease, what happens is that you have viruses that are circulating naturally in wildlife populations. And then an event happens in which that virus spills over into the human population. If that pathogen starts to spread human-to-human, then we have a zoonotic disease outbreak.</p><p>It's important to remember that COVID-19 is at this point a human disease and it's being transmitted human-to-human. So nobody living here in North America needs to be worried about getting COVID-19 from a bat.</p><p>I think that we really want to allay concerns that people need to fear bats. There's definitely been some fear that has arisen because people hear that bats are somewhat associated [with the pandemic] and then that leads to misunderstanding.</p><p>Our general guidance is that people shouldn't be handling bats or wild animals of any kind.</p>
There was a recommendation from the federal government that scientists may need to limit their fieldwork with bats in North America now to prevent a possible transmission of the virus from humans back to species of bats here. Is that a concern?<p>There is some concern about "reverse zoonosis" or spill back, which is the idea that humans could transmit SARS-Co-V-2 back to wildlife populations.</p><p>Researchers are working really hard to understand the vulnerability of other mammals to this novel strain of coronavirus. There was news about a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/nyregion/bronx-zoo-tiger-coronavirus.html" target="_blank">tiger at the Bronx Zoo</a> testing positive and some evidence that different mammals may be susceptible. We really want to make sure that we're protecting bats, which are mammals like us, from any risk from an asymptomatic human.</p><p>Just as we don't want people to spread this virus human-to-human, we don't want people to spread this virus human-to-wildlife. This isn't necessarily a specific concern about bats but really any mammal. We don't know yet if mammals could start to transmit animal-to-animal within their own populations. But right now we really want to limit exposure and limit any risk since we are still in an active research phase.</p>
Have you seen much bat backlash?<p>There's some evidence that there's been some efforts to kill bats in different parts of the world. And we're very concerned about that. Bats are an important part of our ecosystem. They're incredibly biodiverse. They account for about 20 percent of all mammals globally. A lot of people don't realize that there's more than 1,400 different species of bat around the world.</p><p>And they have an enormous variety of ecological roles — what we call "ecosystem services." Here in North America, bats are primarily insect-eating and it's been documented that they provide in the billions [of dollars of benefit] for the agricultural industry in terms of their role in reducing crop predation.</p>
What kind of threats do bats face from us?<p>Globally bats face a variety of different threats, including anthropogenic land-use change, and habitat destruction and degradation. Because many species of bats form large colonies underground, those can be targets for disturbance and indiscriminate killing.</p><p>That's the one that we're really worried about right now. If people start to fear bats, we could see an uptick in directed killings. We're very concerned about that and very focused on trying to provide accurate information and also roost protection.</p><p>And of course <a href="https://therevelator.org/fungus-killing-americas-bats/" target="_blank">white-nose syndrome</a> is a major threat to our hibernating bats here in North America. It's a fungal pathogen that was likely introduced here through human trade or travel. The fungus is widespread in Europe and into temperate Asia. When it was introduced here, it spread very rapidly and has killed millions of bats.</p><p>And, unfortunately, you can't tell bats to social distance.</p>
What can we be doing right now to help bats?<p>The number-one thing that people can do is to say positive things about bats and make sure we aren't scapegoating wildlife. There's a lot of evidence that zoonotic diseases are a reflection of our misuse of the planet. When people are <a href="https://therevelator.org/biodiversity-health-pandemics/" target="_blank">destroying habitats and unsustainably harvesting species</a>, those are the conditions that lead to these kinds of spillover events. And now more than ever, I think there is that recognition that human health and planetary health are intertwined and that <a href="https://therevelator.org/coronavirus-wildlife-trade/" target="_blank">wildlife conservation is a part of global health solutions</a>.</p><p>Because bats do carry coronaviruses in the wild, and they have been talked about in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's really important that people speak up for bats. This is not the bats' fault. This is our fault.</p>
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