Providing water sources to insectivorous bats for conservation biological control in arid date plantations

Yuval Arzi, Michal Segoli, Jessica Schäckermann, Carmi Korine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Balance between the high demand for agricultural production and the negative environmental impact of intensive agriculture requires the development of sustainable agricultural approaches. One such approach is conservation biological control (CBC), which aims at enhancing pest suppression by using natural enemies, such as predators and parasites. Insectivorous bats are considered as potential natural enemies for CBC of insect agricultural pests. Bats drink from open water sources and forage above them, hence we hypothesized that supplementation of artificial water pools adjacent to desert date plantations might promote the activity and species richness of insectivorous bats in this habitat, thereby contributing to pest suppression. We predicted that bats will be more attracted to the pools during summer, when other water sources are scarce, than during spring. In addition, we explored the effect of water supplements on the desert bat community structure. Eight pools were installed in a date plantation in the hyper-arid Arava valley, Israel. Bats were acoustically monitored during three experimental stages: 1) before filling the pools with water; 2) while the pools held water and 3) after emptying them. The lesser date moth (Batrachedra amydraula), a major date pest, was monitored using pheromone traps in parallel with the experimental stages. We found that the pools increased bat activity in summer, but not in spring, while species richness was not affected in either season. The local bat community structure was significantly altered while the pools held water, but not due to increased activity of synanthropic Mediterranean species at the expense of local desert species. The number of individuals of the lesser date moth near the pools decreased with the increase in bat activity. Our results support the idea that seasonal water supplementation enhances bat activity in arid farmlands with potential contribution to pest control and the actual contribution to pest suppression should be further quantified. We suggest that the integration of small artificial pools to promote agricultural pest predation by bats may help reduce crop loss and potentially contribute to the conservation of desert bat communities by adding water sources.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105374
JournalBiological Control
Volume187
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Date plantations
  • Desert
  • Insectivorous bats
  • Pest control
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Insect Science

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