Wind-Wildlife Interaction Bird and bat collisions at Northeast wind projects
The following is a description of work completed for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the summer of 2018. Based out of the USFWS Northeast Regional Office in Hadley, MA, I worked for the Permits Branch of the Migratory Birds Division. I completed this work as part of the USFWS Directorate Resource Assistant Fellows Program.
While wind energy development continues to grow and expand, there are many outstanding questions about how this industry may affect wildlife. The wind energy industry has progressed rapidly in recent years, with total US power capacity doubling in the last 7 years. There are now over 55,000 wind turbines in the US. As wind has progressed, there has been increasing concern over the impacts of development on wildlife, specifically the population effects of bird and bat collisions with wind turbines.
Estimates of total US avian mortality from collisions with turbines ranges from 140,000 to 679,000 fatalities per year. Estimates of total US bat mortality ranges from 600,000 to 949,000 fatalities. While total avian mortality is relatively insignificant (only 0.01% of other sources of anthropogenic avian mortality), mortality of raptors is worrisome. The high number of bats killed via turbine collisions is cause for concern. First, bats in the North America, especially the Northeast, have decreased substantially because of white-nose syndrome. Second, we lack estimates of total bat populations, so the relative significance of mortality rates is unknown.
By compiling 10 years of data collected by the Northeast USFWS, I formed a valuable picture of bird and bat collisions with wind turbines and made recommendations for future management decisions and research direction. My work involved three components:
Synthesizing current knowledge concerning wind-wildlife interactions, focusing on birds and bats
Analyzing data to find trends in bird and bat mortality and summarizing results in a technical report
Exploring dynamics of mortality estimation using the Evidence of Absence software by the US Geological Survey