How much is a bat worth? This economist puts a price on wildlife – One Green Planet

How much is a bat worth? This economist puts a price on wildlife – One Green Planet
How much is a bat worth? This economist puts a price on wildlife – One Green Planet

Bats play a crucial role in ecosystems, particularly because of their feeding habits. In North America, bats feed primarily on insects, including mosquitoes, moths, and cicadas. Amazingly, a single bat can eat up to 1,000 insects per hour. This natural pest control is not only useful for reducing the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes, but also protects crops from pests such as corn borers, thus providing an important service to farmers across the country.

Understanding the economic value of this service is the primary concern of environmental economists like Amy Ando, ​​professor at Ohio State University. Ando’s work aims to quantify the financial benefits of animals and ecosystems to ensure they are appropriately valued and protected in our modern economy. This assessment is especially important given the costs associated with environmental threats such as deforestation and climate change.

A 2022 paper co-authored by Ando and Dale Manning estimated the financial losses to farmers due to a wildlife disease called white nose syndrome that has devastated bat populations across the United States. The study highlights the significant impact of this disease on agriculture and underscores the importance of investing in bat conservation.

Ando explained her work in a conversation with Vox reporters Benji Jones and Byrd Pinkerton for the podcast series InexplicableShe emphasized that environmental economists engage in policy-making and non-market valuation that are essential to making informed government decisions on environmental protection. These economists put a monetary value on the benefits of nature to justify the costs of conservation efforts.

A striking example from Ando’s research is the evaluation of bat pest control services. By analyzing USDA data on farmland, Ando and Manning found that the loss of bats due to white nose syndrome resulted in a decline in land rental prices of nearly $3 per acre. This decline represented an annual economic loss of between $420 and $500 million, underscoring the significant financial impact of bat population declines.

While such economic valuations are critical for policy-making, Ando acknowledges the controversies and ethical concerns associated with quantifying nature’s value. However, she argues that these valuations are necessary to make a compelling case for environmental protection in policy frameworks based on cost-benefit analyses.

Ando’s research also extends to non-utilitarian values ​​of nature, such as intrinsic and spiritual values. For example, a study of tallgrass prairies restoration in Illinois showed that people were willing to pay more for grasslands that supported a greater diversity of birds, including endangered species. These findings demonstrate that people place significant value on the mere existence and diversity of natural ecosystems.

Animals are my favorite people by Tiny Rescue: Animal CollectionAnimals are my favorite people by Tiny Rescue: Animal Collection
Animals are my favorite people by Tiny Rescue: Animal Collection

Animals are my favorite people by Tiny Rescue: Animal Collection

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