Factors associated with bat mortality at wind energy facilities in the United States.
ABSTRACT: Hundreds of thousands of bats are killed annually by colliding with wind turbines in the U.S., yet little is known about factors causing variation in mortality across wind energy facilities. We conducted a quantitative synthesis of bat collision mortality with wind turbines by reviewing 218 North American studies representing 100 wind energy facilities. This data set, the largest compiled for bats to date, provides further support that collision mortality is greatest for migratory tree-roosting species (Hoary Bat [Lasiurus cinereus], Eastern Red Bat [Lasiurus borealis], Silver-haired Bat [Lasionycteris noctivagans]) and from July to October. Based on 40 U.S. studies meeting inclusion criteria and analyzed under a common statistical framework to account for methodological variation, we found support for an inverse relationship between bat mortality and percent grassland cover surrounding wind energy facilities. At a national scale, grassland cover may best reflect openness of the landscape, a factor generally associated with reduced bat activity and abundance that may also reduce turbine collisions. Further representative sampling of wind energy facilities is required to validate this broad pattern. Ecologically informed decisions regarding placement of wind energy facilities involves multiple considerations, including not only factors associated with bat mortality, but also factors associated with bird collision mortality, indirect habitat-related impacts to all species, and overall ecosystem impacts.
Project description:Mitigation of anthropogenic climate change involves deployments of renewable energy worldwide, including wind farms, which can pose a significant collision risk to volant animals. Most studies into the collision risk between species and wind turbines, however, have taken place in industrialized countries. Potential effects for many locations and species therefore remain unclear. To redress this gap, we conducted a systematic literature review of recorded collisions between birds and bats and wind turbines within developed countries. We related collision rate to species-level traits and turbine characteristics to quantify the potential vulnerability of 9538 bird and 888 bat species globally. Avian collision rate was affected by migratory strategy, dispersal distance and habitat associations, and bat collision rates were influenced by dispersal distance. For birds and bats, larger turbine capacity (megawatts) increased collision rates; however, deploying a smaller number of large turbines with greater energy output reduced total collision risk per unit energy output, although bat mortality increased again with the largest turbines. Areas with high concentrations of vulnerable species were also identified, including migration corridors. Our results can therefore guide wind farm design and location to reduce the risk of large-scale animal mortality. This is the first quantitative global assessment of the relative collision vulnerability of species groups with wind turbines, providing valuable guidance for minimizing potentially serious negative impacts on biodiversity.
Project description:Wind energy offers substantial environmental benefits, but wind facilities can negatively impact wildlife, including birds and bats. Researchers and managers have made major efforts to chronicle bird and bat mortality associated with wind facilities, but few studies have examined the patterns and underlying mechanisms of spatial patterns of fatalities at wind facilities. Understanding the horizontal fall distance between a carcass and the nearest turbine pole is important in designing effective search protocols and estimating total mortality. We explored patterns in taxonomic composition and fall distance of bird and bat carcasses at wind facilities in the Northeastern United States using publicly available data and data submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service under scientific collecting and special purpose utility permits for collection and study of migratory birds. Forty-four wind facilities reported 2,039 bird fatalities spanning 128 species and 22 facilities reported 418 bat fatalities spanning five species. Relative to long-distance migratory birds, short-distance migrants were found farther from turbines. Body mass of birds and bats positively influenced fall distance. Turbine size positively influenced fall distance of birds and bats when analyzed collectively and of birds when analyzed separately from bats. This suggests that as turbines increase in size, a greater search radius will be necessary to detect carcasses. Bird and bat fall distance distributions were notably multimodal, but only birds exhibited a high peak near turbine bases, a novel finding we attribute to collisions with turbine poles in addition to blades. This phenomenon varied across bird species, with potential implications for the accuracy of mortality estimates. Although pole collisions for birds is intuitive, this phenomenon has not been formally recognized. This finding may warrant an updated view of turbines as a collision threat to birds because they are a tall structure, and not strictly as a function of their motion.
Project description:Although the ultimate causes of high bat fatalities at wind farms are not well understood, several lines of evidence suggest that bats are attracted to wind turbines. One hypothesis is that bats would be attracted to turbines as a foraging resource if the insects that bats prey upon are commonly present on and around the turbine towers. To investigate the role that foraging activity may play in bat fatalities, we conducted a series of surveys at a wind farm in the southern Great Plains of the US from 2011-2016. From acoustic monitoring we recorded foraging activity, including feeding buzzes indicative of prey capture, in the immediate vicinity of turbine towers from all six bat species known to be present at this site. From insect surveys we found Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, and Orthoptera in consistently high proportions over several years suggesting that food resources for bats were consistently available at wind turbines. We used DNA barcoding techniques to assess bat diet composition of (1) stomach contents from 47 eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis) and 24 hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) carcasses collected in fatality searches, and (2) fecal pellets from 23 eastern red bats that were found on turbine towers, transformers, and tower doors. We found that the majority of the eastern red bat and hoary bat stomachs, the two bat species most commonly found in fatality searches at this site, were full or partially full, indicating that the bats were likely killed while foraging. Although Lepidoptera and Orthoptera dominated the diets of these two bat species, both consumed a range of prey items with individual bats having from one to six insect species in their stomachs at the time of death. The prey items identified from eastern red bat fecal pellets showed similar results. A comparison of the turbine insect community to the diet analysis results revealed that the most abundant insects at wind turbines, including terrestrial insects such as crickets and several important crop pests, were also commonly eaten by eastern red and hoary bats. Collectively, these findings suggest that bats are actively foraging around wind turbines and that measures to minimize bat fatalities should be broadly implemented at wind facilities.
Project description:Understanding seasonal distribution and movement patterns of animals that migrate long distances is an essential part of monitoring and conserving their populations. Compared to migratory birds and other more conspicuous migrants, we know very little about the movement patterns of many migratory bats. Hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus), a cryptic, wide-ranging, long-distance migrant, comprise a substantial proportion of the tens to hundreds of thousands of bat fatalities estimated to occur each year at wind turbines in North America. We created seasonally-dynamic species distribution models (SDMs) from 2,753 museum occurrence records collected over five decades in North America to better understand the seasonal geographic distributions of hoary bats. We used 5 SDM approaches: logistic regression, multivariate adaptive regression splines, boosted regression trees, random forest, and maximum entropy and consolidated outputs to generate ensemble maps. These maps represent the first formal hypotheses for sex- and season-specific hoary bat distributions. Our results suggest that North American hoary bats winter in regions with relatively long growing seasons where temperatures are moderated by proximity to oceans, and then move to the continental interior for the summer. SDMs suggested that hoary bats are most broadly distributed in autumn-the season when they are most susceptible to mortality from wind turbines; this season contains the greatest overlap between potentially suitable habitat and wind energy facilities. Comparing wind-turbine fatality data to model outputs could test many predictions, such as 'risk from turbines is highest in habitats between hoary bat summering and wintering grounds'. Although future field studies are needed to validate the SDMs, this study generated well-justified and testable hypotheses of hoary bat migration patterns and seasonal distribution.
Project description:Worldwide, many countries aim at countering global climate change by promoting renewable energy. Yet, recent studies highlight that so-called green energy, such as wind energy, may come at environmental costs, for example when wind turbines kill birds and bats. Using miniaturized GPS loggers, we studied how an open-space foraging bat with high collision risk with wind turbines, the common noctule Nyctalus noctula (Schreber, 1774), interacts with wind turbines. We compared actual flight trajectories to correlated random walks to identify habitat variables explaining the movements of bats. Both sexes preferred wetlands but used conventionally managed cropland less than expected based on availability. During midsummer, females traversed the land on relatively long flight paths and repeatedly came close to wind turbines. Their flight heights above ground suggested a high risk of colliding with wind turbines. In contrast, males recorded in early summer commuted straight between roosts and foraging areas and overall flew lower than the operating range of most turbine blades, suggesting a lower collision risk. Flight heights of bats suggest that during summer the risk of collision with wind turbines was high for most studied bats at the majority of currently installed wind turbines. For siting of wind parks, preferred bat habitats and commuting routes should be identified and avoided.
Project description:Relatively high mortality of migratory bats at wind energy facilities has prompted research to understand the underlying spatial and temporal factors, with the goal of developing more effective mitigation approaches. We examined acoustic recordings of echolocation calls at 12 sites and post-construction carcass survey data collected at 10 wind energy facilities in Ontario, Canada, to quantify the degree to which timing and regional-scale weather predict bat activity and mortality. Rain and low temperatures consistently predicted low mortality and activity of big brown bats (<i>Eptesicus fuscus</i>) and three species of migratory tree bats: hoary bat (<i>Lasiurus cinereus</i>), eastern red bat (<i>L. borealis</i>), and silver-haired bat (<i>Lasionycteris noctivagans</i>). Bat activity occurred in waves with distinct peaks through the season; regardless of seasonal timing, most activities occurred in the first half of the night. We conclude that wind energy facilities could adopt a novel and more effective curtailment strategy based on weather and seasonal and nocturnal timing that would minimize mortality risks for bats while increasing the opportunities for power generation, relative to the mitigation strategy of increasing cut-in wind speed to 5.5 m/s.
Project description:Wind turbines represent a source of hazard for bats, especially through collision with rotor blades. With increasing technical development, tall turbines (rotor-swept zone 50-150 m above ground level) are becoming widespread, yet we lack quantitative information about species active at these heights, which impedes proposing targeted mitigation recommendations for bat-friendly turbine operation. We investigated vertical activity profiles of a bat assemblage, and their relationships to wind speed, within a major valley of the European Alps where tall wind turbines are being deployed. To monitor bat activity we installed automatic recorders at sequentially increasing heights from ground level up to 65 m, with the goal to determine species-specific vertical activity profiles and to link them to wind speed. Bat call sequences were analysed with an automatic algorithm, paying particular attention to mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis and Myotis blythii) and the European free-tailed bat (Tadarida teniotis), three locally rare species. The most often recorded bats were the Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) and Savi's pipistrelle (Hypsugo savii). Mouse-eared bats were rarely recorded, and mostly just above ground, appearing out of risk of collision. T. teniotis had a more evenly distributed vertical activity profile, often being active at rotor level, but its activity at that height ceased above 5 ms-1 wind speed. Overall bat activity in the rotor-swept zone declined with increasing wind speed, dropping below 5% above 5.4 ms-1. Collision risk could be drastically reduced if nocturnal operation of tall wind turbines would be restricted to wind speeds above 5 ms-1. Such measure should be implemented year-round because T. teniotis remains active in winter. This operational restriction is likely to cause only small energy production losses at these tall wind turbines, although further analyses are needed to assess these losses precisely.
Project description:Abstract Offshore wind energy is a growing industry in the United States, and renewable energy from offshore wind is estimated to double the country's total electricity generation. There is growing concern that land‐based wind development in North America is negatively impacting bat populations, primarily long‐distance migrating bats, but the impacts to bats from offshore wind energy are unknown. Bats are associated with the terrestrial environment, but have been observed over the ocean. In this review, we synthesize historic and contemporary accounts of bats observed and acoustically recorded in the North American marine environment to ascertain the spatial and temporal distribution of bats flying offshore. We incorporate studies of offshore bats in Europe and of bat behavior at land‐based wind energy studies to examine how offshore wind development could impact North American bat populations. We find that most offshore bat records are of long‐distance migrating bats and records occur during autumn migration, the period of highest fatality rates for long‐distance migrating bats at land‐based wind facilities in North America. We summarize evidence that bats may be attracted to offshore turbines, potentially increasing their exposure to risk of collision. However, higher wind speeds offshore can potentially reduce the amount of time that bats are exposed to risk. We identify knowledge gaps and hypothesize that a combination of operational minimization strategies may be the most effective approach for reducing impacts to bats and maximizing offshore energy production. Much has been learned about bat interactions with land‐based turbines in North America over the past 15 years, but little is known about potential risks and impacts to bats in the maritime environment despite a sociopolitical push to develop this resource. We synthesize historic and contemporary records of bats observed and acoustically recorded in North American waters to gain a better understanding of the offshore occurrence and behavior of North American bats and to place this in the context of offshore wind energy development in the United States. We aim to elucidate which North American bat species are most at risk, when and where we might expect the highest fatalities assuming the risk to bats by offshore is similar to terrestrial wind energy development, and whether aspects of offshore bat behavior can help inform mitigation strategies for reducing impacts by offshore wind energy development.
Project description:The expansion of the wind energy industry has had benefits in terms of increased renewable energy production but has also led to increased mortality of migratory bats due to interactions with wind turbines. A key question that could guide bat-related management activities is identifying the geographic origin of bats killed at wind-energy facilities. Generating this information requires developing new methods for identifying the geographic sources of individual bats. Here we explore the viability of assigning geographic origin using trace element analyses of fur to infer the summer molting location of eastern red bats (<i>Lasiurus borealis</i>). Our approach is based on the idea that the concentration of trace elements in bat fur is related through the food chain to the amount of trace elements present in the soil, which varies across large geographic scales. Specifically, we used inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry to determine the concentration of fourteen trace elements in fur of 126 known-origin eastern red bats to generate a basemap for assignment throughout the range of this species in eastern North America. We then compared this map to publicly available soil trace element concentrations for the U.S. and Canada, used a probabilistic framework to generate likelihood-of-origin maps for each bat, and assessed how well trace element profiles predicted the origins of these individuals. Overall, our results suggest that trace elements allow successful assignment of individual bats 80% of the time while reducing probable locations in half. Our study supports the use of trace elements to identify the geographic origin of eastern red and perhaps other migratory bats, particularly when combined with data from other biomarkers such as genetic and stable isotope data.
Project description:Environmental impacts of wind energy facilities increasingly cause concern, a central issue being bats and birds killed by rotor blades. Two approaches have been employed to assess collision rates: carcass searches and surveys of animals prone to collisions. Carcass searches can provide an estimate for the actual number of animals being killed but they offer little information on the relation between collision rates and, for example, weather parameters due to the time of death not being precisely known. In contrast, a density index of animals exposed to collision is sufficient to analyse the parameters influencing the collision rate. However, quantification of the collision rate from animal density indices (e.g. acoustic bat activity or bird migration traffic rates) remains difficult. We combine carcass search data with animal density indices in a mixture model to investigate collision rates. In a simulation study we show that the collision rates estimated by our model were at least as precise as conventional estimates based solely on carcass search data. Furthermore, if certain conditions are met, the model can be used to predict the collision rate from density indices alone, without data from carcass searches. This can reduce the time and effort required to estimate collision rates. We applied the model to bat carcass search data obtained at 30 wind turbines in 15 wind facilities in Germany. We used acoustic bat activity and wind speed as predictors for the collision rate. The model estimates correlated well with conventional estimators. Our model can be used to predict the average collision rate. It enables an analysis of the effect of parameters such as rotor diameter or turbine type on the collision rate. The model can also be used in turbine-specific curtailment algorithms that predict the collision rate and reduce this rate with a minimal loss of energy production.