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Wind turbines impact bat activity, leading to high losses of habitat use in a biodiversity hotspot

Abstract:
Previous studies have mainly focused on bat mortality through collision by wind turbines, and very few studies have assessed the indirect impacts on bat activity and on foraging habitat availability. Also, there is a global lack of knowledge on the vulnerability of tropical bat fauna due to wind energy production, even though it is well known that windpower can affect bat communities and biodiversity hotspots are widespread in the tropics. We present one of the first studies to quantify the indirect impact of wind farms on insectivorous bats in tropical hotspots of biodiversity. Bat activity was compared between wind farm sites and control sites, via ultrasound recordings at stationary points. The activity of bent winged bats (Miniopterus spp.) and wattled bats (Chalinolobus spp.) were both significantly lower at wind turbine sites. The result of the study demonstrates a large effect on bat habitat use at wind turbines sites compared to control sites. Bat activity was 20 times higher at control sites compared to wind turbine sites, which suggests that habitat loss is an important impact to consider in wind farm planning. We strongly recommend that the loss of the foraging habitat loss is considered in mitigation hierarchy (avoiding, reducing, offsetting) when compensating for negative impacts of wind farms.

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Prediction of Chalinolobus neocaledonicus activity (A) and Miniopterus spp activity (B) provided by the best model. According that the best model include the percentage of open land within 200 m buffer, we fix the value of this co-variable to its mean in the dataset (i.e. 42%). Bat activity is the number of number of contacts predicted for the first three hours of the night at control sites and wind turbine sites (WT), error bars are standard error.

Lara Millon, Célia Colin, Fabrice Brescia, IAC (Institut Agronomique néo-Calédonien), Equipe ARBOREAL (Agriculture Biodiversité et Valorisation) Païta, New Caledonia
Christian Kerbiriou, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Centre d’Ecologie et des Sciences de la Conservation, UMR 7204 MNHN-CNRS, France, and Station de Biologie Marine, Concarneau, France

Ecological Engineering 112 (2018) 51–54. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2017.12.024

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