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Patterns of Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities in North America  

Author:  | Canada, U.S., Wildlife

ABSTRACT. Wind has become one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy worldwide, but widespread and often extensive fatalities of bats have increased concern regarding the impacts of wind energy development on bats and other wildlife. We synthesized available information on patterns of bat fatalities from a review of 21 postconstruction fatality studies conducted at 19 facilities in 5 United States regions and one Canadian province. Dominance of migratory, foliage- and tree-roosting lasiurine species (e.g., hoary bat [Lasiurus cinereus]) killed by turbines was consistent among studies. Bat fatalities, although highly variable and periodic, consistently peaked in late summer and fall, coinciding with migration of lasiurines and other species. A notable exception was documented fatalities of pregnant female Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) in May and June at a facility in Oklahoma, USA, and female silver-haired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans) during spring in Tennessee, USA, and Alberta, Canada. Most studies reported that fatalities were distributed randomly across turbines at a site, although the highest number of fatalities was often found near the end of turbine strings. Two studies conducted simultaneously in the same region documented similar timing of fatalities between sites, which suggests broader patterns of collisions dictated by weather, prey abundance, or other factors. None of the studies found differences in bat fatalities between turbines equipped with lighting required by the Federal Aviation Administration and turbines that were unlit. All studies that addressed relationships between bat fatalities and weather patterns found that most bats were killed on nights with low wind speed (<6 m/sec) and that fatalities increased immediately before and after passage of storm fronts. Weather patterns may be predictors of bat activity and fatality; thus, mitigation efforts that focus on these high-risk periods could reduce bat fatality substantially. We caution that estimates of bat fatality are conditioned by length of study and search interval and that they are biased in relation to how searcher efficiency, scavenger removal, and habitat differences were or were not accounted for. Our review will assist managers, biologists, and decision-makers with understanding unifying and unique patterns of bat fatality, biases, and limitations of existing efforts, and it will aid in designing future research needed to develop mitigation strategies for minimizing or eliminating bat fatality at wind facilities. (JOURNAL OF WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT 72(1):61–78; 2008)

Download original document: “Patterns of Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities in North America

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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