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Fatalities at wind turbines may threaten population viability of a migratory bat

Abstract: Large numbers of migratory bats are killed every year at wind energy facilities. However, population-level impacts are unknown as we lack basic demographic information about these species. We investigated whether fatalities at wind turbines could impact population viability of migratory bats, focusing on the hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), the species most frequently killed by turbines in North America. Using expert elicitation and population projection models, we show that mortality from wind turbines may drastically reduce population size and increase the risk of extinction. For example, the hoary bat population could decline by as much as 90% in the next 50 years if the initial population size is near 2.5 million bats and annual population growth rate is similar to rates estimated for other bat species (λ = 1.01). Our results suggest that wind energy development may pose a substantial threat to migratory bats in North America. If viable populations are to be sustained, conservation measures to reduce mortality from turbine collisions likely need to be initiated soon. Our findings inform policy decisions regarding preventing or mitigating impacts of energy infrastructure development on wildlife.

W.F. Frick, E.F. Baerwald, J.F. Pollock, R.M.R. Barclay, J.A. Szymanski, T.J. Weller, A.L. Russell, S.C. Loeb, R.A. Medellin, L.P. McGuire

  • Bat Conservation International, PO Box 162603, Austin, Texas (W.F.F.)
  • Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Cal. (W.F.F., J.F.P.)
  • Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta (E.F.B.)
  • American Wind Wildlife Institute, Washington, DC (E.F.B., R.M.R.B.)
  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Resource Center, Onalaska, Wis. (J.A.S.)
  • United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Arcata, Cal. (T.J.W.)
  • Department of Biology, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Mich. (A.L.R.)
  • United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Clemson, S.Car. (S.C.L.)
  • Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Distrito Federal, Mexico (R.A.M.)
  • Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas (L.P.M.)

Biological Conservation, Volume 209, May 2017, Pages 172–177
doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.02.023 [1]

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