Peaks in bat activity at turbines and the implications for mitigating the impact of wind energy developments on bats.

Affiliation

Richardson SM(#)(1), Lintott PR(#)(1)(2), Hosken DJ(3), Economou T(4), Mathews F(5)(6).
Author information:
(1)Hatherly Laboratories, Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, EX4 4PS, UK.
(2)Univerity of the West of England, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK.
(3)Centre for Ecology & Conservation, University of Exeter, Cornwall, Tremough, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9EZ, UK.
(4)Harrison Building, College of Engineering, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, N Park Rd, Exeter, EX4 4QF, UK.
(5)Hatherly Laboratories, Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, EX4 4PS, UK. [Email]
(6)University of Sussex, John Maynard Smith Building, Falmer, Sussex, BN1 9QG, UK. [Email]
(#)Contributed equally

Abstract

Wind turbines are a relatively new threat to bats, causing mortalities worldwide. Reducing these fatalities is essential to ensure that the global increase in wind-energy facilities can occur with minimal impact on bat populations. Although individual bats have been observed approaching wind turbines, and fatalities frequently reported, it is unclear whether bats are actively attracted to, indifferent to, or repelled by, the turbines at large wind-energy installations. In this study, we assessed bat activity at paired turbine and control locations at 23 British wind farms. The research focussed on Pipistrellus species, which were by far the most abundant bats recorded at these sites. P. pipistrellus activity was 37% higher at turbines than at control locations, whereas P. pygmaeus activity was consistent with no attraction or repulsion by turbines. Given that more than 50% of bat fatalities in Europe are P. pipistrellus, these findings help explain why Environmental Impact Assessments conducted before the installation of turbines are poor predictors of actual fatality rates. They also suggest that operational mitigation (minimising blade rotation in periods of high collision risk) is likely to be the most effective way to reduce collisions because the presence of turbines alters bat activity.