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Factors associated with bat mortality at wind energy facilities in the United States

Description: 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 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 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. Ecologically informed decisions regarding placement of wind 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.

Purpose/Objective: Wind energy development is a rapidly growing technology within the U.S. economy and energy sector. However, wind turbines have been shown to kill both birds and bats. Thus, as wind energy continues to develop, proper understanding of the risks of turbines is critical for ecological risk assessment. This manuscript provides a meta-analysis of bat mortality at wind energy facilities across geographic regions of the US. The analysis and results will prove useful for local communities, ecological risk assessors and scientists interested in collision mortality.

Thompson, M., J. Beston, M. Etterson, J. Diffendorfer, and S. Loss
National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory

Biological Conservation, 215:241-245 (2017)
doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.09.014 [1]