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Resource Documents: Wildlife (240 items)


Also see NWW "wildlife" FAQ

Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.

Date added:  November 14, 2017
Portugal, WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

Indirect Impacts of Wind Farms on Terrestrial Mammals: Insights from the Disturbance and Exclusion Effects on Wolves (Canis lupus)

Author:  Ferrão da Costa, Gonçalo; et al.

Abstract —
Due to the technical and functional characteristics of wind turbines, impact assessment studies have focused mainly on flying vertebrates. Nevertheless, evidence from the little available knowledge indicates potential impacts on large terrestrial mammals resulting from habitat fragmentation and increasing human disturbance. Over the last 15 years, more than 900 wind turbines were built inside the range of the Portuguese wolf. Due to the endangered status of this large carnivore in Portugal, several monitoring plans were conducted, resulting in a reasonable amount of information being collected on the effects of wind farms on wolves. We reviewed the methodological approaches, compiled major findings and summarised the mitigation/compensation measures used in Portuguese wind farms. The overall outcomes show increasing human disturbance in wind farm areas, resulting in lower wolf reproduction rates during construction and the first years of operation, as well as shifts in denning site locations of more than 2.5 km away from the wind farm. These findings are of major concern in humanised landscapes, where suitable wolf breeding habitats are reduced. As precautionary measure, new wind farm projects should be restricted in areas that are closer than 2 km from known wolf denning locations.

Gonçalo Ferrão da Costa
João Paula

Bioinsight, Odivelas, Portugal
Francisco Petrucci-Fonseca
Grupo Lobo, Department of Animal Biology and CE3C—Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes, Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal
Francisco Álvares
CIBIO/InBIO—Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, University of Porto, Vairão, Portugal

In: Mascarenhas M., Marques A., Ramalho R., Santos D., Bernardino J., Fonseca C. (eds) Biodiversity and Wind Farms in Portugal. Springer Cham, 2018; chapter 5, pp 111–134

The Indirect Impacts of Wind Farms on Terrestrial Mammals: Insights from the Disturbance and Exclusion Effects on Wolves (Canis lupus)

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Date added:  November 13, 2017
Americas, U.S., WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

Strong geographic and temporal patterns in conservation status of North American bats

Author:  Hammerson, Geoffrey; et al.

Abstract —
Conservationists are increasingly concerned about North American bats due to the arrival and spread of the White-nose Syndrome (WNS) disease and mortality associated with wind turbine strikes. To place these novel threats in context for a group of mammals that provides important ecosystem services, we performed the first comprehensive conservation status assessment focusing exclusively on the 45 species occurring in North America north of Mexico. Although most North American bats have large range sizes and large populations, as of 2015, 18–31% of the species were at risk (categorized as having vulnerable, imperiled, or critically imperiled NatureServe conservation statuses) and therefore among the most imperiled terrestrial vertebrates on the continent [emphasis added]. Species richness is greatest in the Southwest, but at-risk species were more concentrated in the East, and northern faunas had the highest proportion of at-risk species. Most ecological traits considered, including those characterizing body size, roosting habits, migratory behavior, range size, home range size, population density, and tendency to hibernate, were not strongly associated with conservation status. However, nectarivorous bats tended to be more at risk. The conservation status of bats improved from 1985 to 2000 as human disturbances to roosting sites were reduced, but then declined sharply (7%) by 2015 due principally to threats from WNS and wind energy. Although uncertainty about threats from pollution and climate change remain, past experience shows that when threats are clearly identified and management actions taken, populations can recover.

G.A. Hammerson, NatureServe, Port Townsend, Washington
M. Kling, Dept. of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California
M. Harkness, NatureServe, Boulder, Colorado
M. Ormes, NatureServe, c/o Biology Department, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts
B.E. Young, NatureServe, Escazu, Costa Rica

Biological Conservation, Volume 212, Part A, August 2017, Pages 144-152
doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.05.025

Download original document: “Strong geographic and temporal patterns in conservation status of North American bats

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Date added:  November 11, 2017
Europe, Greece, WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

Balanced solution to the cumulative threat of industrialized wind farm development on cinereous vultures (Aegypius monachus) in south-eastern Europe

Author:  Vasilakis, Dimitris; Whitfield, D. Philip; and Kati, Vassiliki

Abstract —
Wind farm development can combat climate change but may also threaten bird populations’ persistence through collision with wind turbine blades if such development is improperly planned strategically and cumulatively. Such improper planning may often occur. Numerous wind farms are planned in a region hosting the only cinereous vulture population in south-eastern Europe. We combined range use modelling and a Collision Risk Model (CRM) to predict the cumulative collision mortality for cinereous vulture under all operating and proposed wind farms. Four different vulture avoidance rates were considered in the CRM. Cumulative collision mortality was expected to be eight to ten times greater in the future (proposed and operating wind farms) than currently (operating wind farms), equivalent to 44% of the current population (103 individuals) if all proposals are authorized (2744 MW). Even under the most optimistic scenario whereby authorized proposals will not collectively exceed the national target for wind harnessing in the study area (960 MW), cumulative collision mortality would still be high (17% of current population) and likely lead to population extinction. [emphasis added] Under any wind farm proposal scenario, over 92% of expected deaths would occur in the core area of the population, further implying inadequate spatial planning and implementation of relevant European legislation with scant regard for governmental obligations to protect key species. On the basis of a sensitivity map we derive a spatially explicit solution that could meet the national target of wind harnessing with a minimum conservation cost of less than 1% population loss providing that the population mortality (5.2%) caused by the operating wind farms in the core area would be totally mitigated. Under other scenarios, the vulture population would probably be at serious risk of extinction. Our ‘win-win’ approach is appropriate to other potential conflicts where wind farms may cumulatively threaten wildlife populations.

Dimitris P. Vasilakis
Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Management, University of Patras, Agrinio, Aitoloakarnania, Greece; Directorate of Evros Region Forestry Service, Decentralized Administration of Macedonia-Thrace, Alexadroupolis, Evros, Greece
D. Philip Whitfield
Natural Research, Brathens Business Park, Banchory, Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom
Vassiliki Kati
Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Management, University of Patras, Agrinio, Aitoloakarnania, Greece

PLoS One; Published February 23, 2017
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172685

Download original document: “A balanced solution to the cumulative threat of industrialized wind farm development on cinereous vultures (Aegypius monachus) in south-eastern Europe

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Date added:  November 10, 2017
WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

Impact of wind energy on bats: A summary of our current knowledge

Author:  Hein, Cris; and Schirmacher, Michael


Since 2003, when it was discovered that large numbers of bats were being killed at wind turbines in the eastern United States, our understanding of the impact of wind energy development on bats has increased and consistent patterns of fatality, including seasonality and species composition have become evident. Yet, many questions remain despite the wealth of data collected across numerous post-construction monitoring studies. We synthesized the recent literature to provide an overview of our current understanding of patterns of bat fatalities at wind energy facilities in the United States and Canada. Our understanding of the impact of wind energy development on bats continues to be hindered by inconsistencies among studies and lack of publicly available data. It will be difficult to fully address this complex issue and develop sustainable strategies to reduce the impact of wind turbines on bats and generate wind energy without standardized protocols for field methods, estimation of fatality, and greater cooperation among stakeholders.

Estimates of impacts

With only a fraction of individual studies available, it is difficult to place impact of wind energy development on bats into context. Several attempts to develop cumulative estimates for a given region or year have been made, each using different assumptions and datasets. Kunz et al. (2007) estimated cumulative bat fatalities for the Mid-Atlantic Highlands would range from 33,000 to 62,000 or 59,000 to 111,000, depending on the projected installed capacity in the region by the year 2020. Cryan (2011) used the average 11.6 bats/megawatt, based on data provided in Arnett et al. (2008) and multiplied it by the total installed capacity in the United States, which at the time was approximately 40,000 megawatts, to estimate >450,000 bat fatalities each year in North America.

Two recent attempts were made to estimate bat fatality in the United States for 2012. Hayes (2013) followed a similar approach to Cryan (2011) and based his analysis primarily on the limited dataset from Arnett et al. (2008). Hayes (2013) indicated that >600,000 bats were killed at wind energy facilities in 2012 and suggested that this was a conservative estimate. Smallwood (2013) estimated up to 888,000 bats were killed in the United States in 2012. He used a larger dataset than Hayes (2013) and applied a common estimator and 3 adjustment factors to improve comparability among sites.

Arnett and Baerwald (2013) estimated cumulative bat fatalities in the United States and Canada using data from 122 post-construction fatality studies from 73 facilities. They calculated a weighted mean based on regional means and weighted by installed capacity for each year from 1999 to 2010, then calculated and multiplied by total installed megawatts for each year. Arnett and Baerwald (2013) estimated [that] cumulative bat fatalities in the United States and Canada ranged from 0.8 to 1.7 million between 2000 and 2011. Based on their assumptions and installed wind power capacity, this estimate was projected to increase by 200,000 to 400,000 bats in 2012.

We recommend caution when using any of these estimates and to articulate the assumptions and limitations when citing these publications. Huso and Dalthorp (2013) provided a critique of the methodology used by Hayes (2013), but many of the key issues could be applied to each of these cumulative estimates. In addition, Smallwood (2013) details numerous biases associated with individual studies that make comparing and combining data problematic. Each of these studies suffers from limited datasets that were based on public availability of studies and were not a representative sample of fatality across the region of inference. Although Arnett and Baerwald (2013) had by far the most data for their analysis, this collection of studies likely was still not representative of the entire United States and Canada. Yet, theirs is the only study to weight their estimates by both region and installed wind power capacity, which may provide a more conservative and accurate estimate (Arnett et al. 2016).

Even if more data were publicly available for use, another major challenge in estimating cumulative fatalities is lack of consistency in study design among sites. This, in part, is due to changes in turbine size and advances in study protocols and fatality estimation (Huso and Dalthorp 2013, Smallwood 2013). Nevertheless, varying levels of effort (e.g., temporally and spatially), differing methods for adjusting for imperfect detection, and different estimators used among sites are so large that estimates cannot be compared or combined (Huso 2011). Piorkowski et al. (2012), recognizing the impossibility of obtaining reliable estimates of fatality from currently available data, identified development of a standardized experimental design and generalized fatality estimator as the number one issue in addressing impact of wind energy development on bats. Until this is realized, any attempt to develop cumulative estimates or project estimates of bat fatalities into the future is problematic.

We suggest that each of these be considered an order of magnitude estimate; taken together, they highlight the almost certain large number of bats being killed (i.e., on the order of hundreds of thousands per year) in the United States and Canada. Given that bats have a low reproductive rate—typically only having 1 or 2 pups/year—and require high adult survivorship to avoid population declines (Barclay and Harder 2003), this level of impact presumably puts bat populations at risk. Moreover, many species were thought to be declining prior to the onset and expansion of wind energy development, including species impacted by white-nose syndrome (Winhold et al. 2008, Frick et al. 2010). Although population data are sparse or lacking for many bat species, current and presumed future level of fatality is considered to be unsustainable, and actions to reduce impact of wind turbines on bats should be implemented immediately.

Cris Hein, Michael Schirmacher
Bat Conservation International

Human-Wildlife Interactions. 10. 19-27.

Download original document: “Impact of wind energy on bats: A summary of our current knowledge

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