- Presence of Eptesicus nilssonii and Myotis spp. are higher further from wind turbines located in forests.
- The avoidance of wind turbines or their surroundings could mean important loss of habitats for bats.
- Bat activity at wind power sites in forests varies with night length and season in the boreal zone.
- Mitigating this avoidance effect in current and future wind farms requires stronger regulations in Finland and the rest of Europe.
Impacts of wind power on bats are usually evidenced by the recorded fatalities, while other impacts are not well understood or considered during project planning. However, wind turbines may affect use of the surrounding habitats by bats. Little is known about such impact, especially in the European boreal biogeographical region. We studied the consequences of operating wind turbines on the presence and activity of bats in forests. We simultaneously monitored bat acoustic activity at 84 sampling sites placed at 200 m intervals from 0 to 1.000 m (2 recorders per distance class), over four months and at seven Finnish wind farms located in forested habitats. Our results show higher presence and activity at 600 m and further from turbines for Eptesicus nilssonii, and higher presence at 800 m and further for Myotis spp. We also saw an increase in bat activity during midsummer, which may be due to increased use of forest canopy cover during the short nights at this time. These results indicate a potential loss in habitat quality around wind turbines, e.g., a greater number of open areas in forests unfavourable to certain bat species. This lower activity and presence could also be an indication for active avoidance of the wind turbines from the bats. Furthermore, these results are the first of their kind for Eptesicus nilssonii, and for the European boreal biogeographical region. They show undeniable impacts of wind power on bats in Finland, and enforce the requirement for better consideration of bats during the development of such projects in Finland. Similarly, these results show impacts of operating turbines on habitat use by bats, impacts that now must be considered in Europe. We also call for investigation on the causative mechanisms of the observed effect, to better facilitate mitigation.
Simon P. Gaultier, Eero J. Vesterinen, Jon E. Brommer, Biology Department, University of Turku, Finland
Thomas M. Lilley, Finnish Natural History Museum, University of Helsinki
Landscape and Urban Planning, Volume 231, March 2023, 104636
Download original document: “The presence of wind turbines repels bats in boreal forests”
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