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Habitat use of bats in relation to wind turbines revealed by GPS tracking

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.

Manuel Roeleke, Stephanie Kramer-Schadt, and Christian C. Voigt
Department of Evolutionary Ecology, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany

Torsten Blohm
Prenzlau, Germany

Yossi Yovel
Department of Zoology, Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 28961 (2016)
doi:10.1038/srep28961 [1]

Download original document: “Habitat use of bats in relation to wind turbines revealed by GPS tracking [2]

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