Agave, Night, Nectar

Video (click image above): Mexican long-nosed bats drinking nectar from agave flowers at night. Credit: Bat Conservation International

Bats, agave, and half a minute of night-time feeding are in the video above, which is also embedded in this article by Janet Marinelli, published in Yale e360:

How Preserving Agave Could Help Save an Endangered Bat

Drought linked to climate change, along with overgrazing, is destroying the agave plants on which the Mexican long-nosed bat depends. Now, an initiative is trying to restore the balance between the agaves, the bats that feed on them, and the people who live on these lands.

Agaves blooming in Estanque de Norias, Mexico. KRISTEN LEAR / BAT CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL

At the southeast tip of a large valley in the northern Sierra Madre Oriental is the small Mexican town of Estanque de Norias, some 200 miles west of the Texas border at Laredo.

Mountains rise up around the scrubby, treeless terrain like undulating brown walls. The star of this parched landscape is Agave asperrima, whose rosettes of impressive thick, blue-gray leaves edged with large, sharp teeth can grow four feet high and five feet wide. The agave spends its entire 10- to 15-year life storing enough sugars for the moment when it sends a massive flowering stalk up into the sky. The stalk, which can reach 20 feet tall, is topped by a giant, candelabra-like inflorescence with numerous flower clusters bearing countless small, bright yellow blooms that produce large quantities of sweet nectar at night. After flowering, the plant dies.

Estanque de Norias is an ejido, a communal agrarian community whose 300 inhabitants make their living in the desert scrub. The striking landscape offers barely enough to support the ejidatarios and their cattle in normal times, and climate change has made their living even more precarious. “One of the principal problems is the availability of water for the people and the cattle in the driest months,” says José Juan Flores-Maldonado, executive director of the Mexican nonprofit Species, Society, and Habitat — known by its Mexican acronym ESHAC. “Desertification, which is evident in a huge part of the area, is the key threat to human livelihoods and biodiversity in ejidos like Estanque de Norias.”

Harvesting agaves for the production of mezcal, including tequila, is not a major threat in northeastern Mexico, as it is in the western part of the country. However, as drought has intensified and become more frequent, the cattle — which have traditionally grazed on grasses and other native forage — have been forced to feed on agaves. The land is now so heavily grazed and degraded that the agaves are disappearing or are consumed by the cattle before they can flower, threatening another important denizen of the desert scrub, the endangered Mexican long-nosed bat…

Read the whole article here.

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