If climate change predictions are correct, the Hoosier State may soon be too hot for the Indiana bat, according to a study that shows warmer temperatures are the latest in a series of threats to the endangered species.
The study from the U.S. Forest Service shows the average summer temperature in the Midwest, including Indiana, is expected to rise several degrees in the next few decades.
“Much of the climatically suitable habitat right now will not be climatically suitable,” says researcher Susan Loeb. “The major areas which will be the most suitable will be in the northeastern United States and the southern Appalachian Mountains.”
To create their predictions, the researchers studied Indiana bat maternity colonies, where the bats migrate to have their young. They traditionally exist in places that are around 82 degrees Fahrenheit, so if the temperature rises much above that, Loeb says the bats are predicted to move to cooler areas.
And the move could make it harder for them to survive. Loeb says Indiana bat populations have already been weakened by a fatal disease called White Nose Syndrome, and putting added pressure on them to adapt to a new environment could make it harder for them to fight the disease.
Indiana State University biology professor Joy O’Keefe is an Indiana bat specialist. She says that is why Indiana needs to do all it can to ease the pressures put on the species.
“They like big dead trees,” she says. “Anywhere, anything we can do to provide more big dead trees on the landscape coupled with forest habitat where they can forage will be valuable for the species.”
O’Keefe says protecting forests will be much easier than reversing climate change.