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Incorporating Bats in Agroecosystem Management and Crop Protection DecisionsEPA Grant Number: FP917468
Title: Incorporating Bats in Agroecosystem Management and Crop Protection Decisions
Investigators: Ingram, Katherine Phillips
Institution: University of California - Davis
EPA Project Officer: Cobbs-Green, Gladys M.
Project Period: September 1, 2012 through August 31, 2015
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Ecology , Academic Fellowships
The widespread use of pesticides for pest control has led to the unfortunate side effect that pesticides are now major elements of environmental pollution in some agricultural regions. Biological pest control increasingly is recognized as a viable and cost-effective alternative to pesticide use. This research project will investigate the economic, social and environmental potential of bats as natural pest-control agents in California’s Central Valley and will serve as a model for future efforts to incorporate ecosystem services into the agricultural industry.
Before the economic value of an ecological service is assessed, the service itself must first be characterized. This proposed study will characterize the assemblage of bat species that forage in or around walnut groves in central California and assess their diets using DNA barcoding techniques. The quantity of insect pests being consumed per bat will be estimated and used to create an economic model of the cost savings of bat-aided crop pest depletion. Using these biological and economic data, this research will address agricultural decision making; specifically, those factors (social, economic, behavioral) that influence the willingness of farmers to adopt techniques that encourage bat residency on farms will be determined.
By characterizing the diet of bats in agroecosystems, this research likely will document that bats are important consumers of pest species. Additionally, this investigation will document which pest species are consumed and the relative contribution of these species to bat diets. Information on bat diets and pest species consumption will demonstrate economic savings associated with facilitating bat foraging in orchards; one key objective of this study is to quantify these savings and work with farmers to incorporate bats as part of a broader integrated pest management (IPM) approach. By assessing the social and behavioral factors that contribute to the implementation of this relatively novel agricultural practice in the Central Valley, this research will develop educational tools to help farmers assess the costs and benefits of “bat IPM”, and to demonstrate simple and cost-effective means of incorporating bats into their agricultural management.
Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection
In closed basins such as California’s Central Valley, agricultural pesticide has the potential to negatively impact non-agricultural regions such as wild lands and riparian areas, and has grave health implications for both crop handlers and consumers of agricultural products. This project will provide basic economic information to the regional agricultural community, thereby allowing farmers to make their own cost-benefit analysis of the value of incorporating bats into their agricultural management. Additionally, the economic implications of this study will provide policy makers with a tool to create safer, more sustainable agricultural infrastructure.