Puig-Montserrat, X., Torre, I., López-Baucells, A., Guerrieri, E., Monti, M., Ràfols-García, R., Ferrer, X., Gisbert, D. & Flaquer, C. (2015) Pest control service provided by bats in Mediterranean rice paddies: linking agroecosystems structure to ecological functions.Mammalian Biology, 80, 237-245. DOI:10.1016/j.mambio.2015.03.008 (IF2015 1,595; Q2 Zoology)
Pest control through integrated pest management systems stands as a very convenient sustainable hazard-free alternative to pesticides, which are a growing global concern if overused. The ability of the soprano pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) to control the rice borer moth (Chilo supressalis), which constitutes a major pest of rice around the world, was studied in the Ebre Delta, Northeastern Iberia. Evidence was found on the ability of this particular bat species to control borer infestations: (a) the moth was consumed during at least the last two peaks of the moth activity, when most crop damage is done; (b) the activity of bats significantly increased with moth abundance in the rice paddies; (c) the pest levels have declined in the study area (Buda Island, Eastern Ebre Delta) after the deployment of bat boxes and their subsequent occupation by soprano pipistrelles. The value of the ecosystem service provided by bats was estimated at a minimum of 21€ per hectare, equivalent to the avoided pesticide expenditure alone. We suggest that this natural service can be enhanced by providing bat populations with artificial roosts in rice paddies were some key ecosystem features are present.