Species On The Move

As climate change impacts habitats around the world, species are on the move, trying to adapt — and survive.

About This Species

The bats of the Cerrado—Brazil's vast tropical savannah— play a vital role in pollinating and dispersing seeds of important plants in one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. The Cerrado covers 23 percent of Brazil, an area the size of Western Europe. There are at least 118 bat species living there, representing 10.5 percent of the world's bat species. With rapid deforestation and climate change eating away at the Cerrado, however, bats face a threat to their existence. They have limited ability to adapt to the rapid climate change underway because of their slow reproductive rates. They also have specific habitat needs, so even if they could move elsewhere, they would be hard-pressed to find a suitable setting.

Carollia brevicauda

The Carollia brevicauda is among the threatened bat species of the Brazilian Cerrado. Credit: Flickr user Diego Lizcano

Source: "Should I stay or should I go? Climate change effects on the future of Neotropical savannah bats," by Ludmilla M.S. Aguiar, Enrico Bernard, Vivian Ribeiro, Ricardo B. Machado and Gareth Jones. Published in Global Ecology and Conservation, Dec. 9, 2015

Conservation Status

Many of the bat species found in the Brazilian Cerrado are doing relatively well elsewhere in the world. But the Cerrado has become particularly inhospitable.

The Brazilian Cerrado was shown to be losing forest at more than twice the rate of the Amazon in 2008—5,482 square miles of its three-quarters of a million square miles were lost that year alone. The Cerrado is considered the most threatened savannah in the world and one of Brazil's most threatened biomes. As the Cerrado has become fragmented due to deforestation and agricultural expansion, so has the bats' habitat, isolating groups or even entire species and making them more vulnerable to climate change.

Source: "Should I stay or should I go? Climate change effects on the future of Neotropical savannah bats." Published in Global Ecology and Conservation, Dec. 9, 2015

Map: The Brazilian Cerrado

The Cerrado is the largest savannah region in South America and covers 20 percent of Brazil.

Map of the Brazilian Cerrado

Credit: NASA

Looking Forward

Climate change will come as a triple threat for the bats, altering temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and bringing more extreme weather. These could impact the bats' foraging behavior and reproduction, and bring more disease. The biggest impact, though, is expected to be the disappearance of high-quality native habitat.

Common Tent-Making Bats

By 2050, the bats of the Cerrado could lose 80 percent -- or more -- of their range. Photo: Charles J Sharp via Wikimedia

A study found that by 2050, the bats could find similar climatice conditions 175 miles southeast of their current home. But it's unclear whether the corridors to help them migrate there will still exist. If they do not move, nearly a third of the Cerrado's bat species could lose roughly 80 percent of their habitat. Five species would lose more than 98 percent of their home range.

Source: "Should I stay or should I go? Climate change effects on the future of Neotropical savannah bats." Published in Global Ecology and Conservation, Dec. 9, 2015

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