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Vulnerability of avian populations to renewable energy production  

Author:  | California, Canada, Mexico, U.S., Wildlife

Abstract: Renewable energy production can kill individual birds, but little is known about how it affects avian populations. We assessed the vulnerability of populations for 23 priority bird species killed at wind and solar facilities in California, USA. Bayesian hierarchical models suggested that 48% of these species were vulnerable to population-level effects from added fatalities caused by renewables and other sources. Effects of renewables extended far beyond the location of energy production to impact bird populations in distant regions across continental migration networks. Populations of species associated with grasslands where turbines were located were most vulnerable to wind. Populations of nocturnal migrant species were most vulnerable to solar, despite not typically being associated with deserts where the solar facilities we evaluated were located. Our findings indicate that addressing declines of North American bird populations requires consideration of the effects of renewables and other anthropogenic threats on both nearby and distant populations of vulnerable species.

Tara J. Conkling and Todd E. Katzner, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Boise, Idaho
Hannah B. Vander Zanden, Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Taber D. Allison, Renewable Energy Wildlife Institute, Washington, DC
Jay E. Diffendorfer, Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, Colorado
Thomas V. Dietsch, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad, California
Adam E. Duerr, Bloom Research Inc., Santa Ana, California
Amy L. Fesnock, Desert District Office, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Palm Springs, California
Rebecca R. Hernandez, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, and Wild Energy Initiative, John Muir Institute of the Environment, University of California, Davis, California
Scott R. Loss, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma
David M. Nelson, Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Frostburg, Maryland
Peter M. Sanzenbacher, Palm Springs Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Palm Springs, California
Julie L. Yee, Western Ecological Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Santa Cruz, California

Royal Society Open Science March 2022, Volume 9 Issue 3. doi:10.1098/rsos.211558

Download original document: “Vulnerability of avian populations to renewable energy production

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

The copyright of this material resides with the author(s). As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Queries e-mail.

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