Bat fatalities at wind energy facilities across North America examined in the context of climate change

Wandelt, Bridget Lauren, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Macko, Stephen A., Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Moody, Jennie, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Dolan, Robert, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia

Historically besmirched and often overlooked in society, today bats are gaining appreciation for their importance to seed dispersal, pollination, and pest control. Bats possess life history traits, which make them especially vulnerable to population impacts. The threat of climate change poses a serious potential threat to bat populations worldwide. Unfortunately, wind power, which offsets carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change, may also pose a risk to bat populations. Researchers have determined a sub-group of bats called lasiurines to be at greatest risk, killed most frequently during fall migration. At present, researchers know that bats are attracted to the forest patch created by wind turbines, but they are unsure at present for what reason (e.g., source of concentrated prey, ease of flight, curiosity, finding mates). What is clear is that once bats are in the area, the main mode of death is rapid decompression resulting in barometric trauma to the lungs. At present, there does not exist a link between pre and post-construction surveys of bat activity in an area, which makes it impossible to determine high-risk areas. As a result, there is a greater significance for mitigation techniques, including curtailment of wind turbines, acoustic deterrents, and forest management techniques either to deter bats from a wind energy facility or as an offset.

This thesis seeks to create a framework for evaluating bat fatalities at wind energy facilities in the context of climate change. There is provided a descriptive listing of risks posed to bat populations by climate change in the first part. Next, there is a comprehensive review and synthesis of studies performed to date about bat fatalities at wind energy facilities, in order to explore the possible reasons that bats are killed at wind energy facilities. Finally, a list of mitigation measures is given, with recommendations for future steps. Encouraged by increasing government and public support, wind energy development appears to be growing in scope, making the evaluation of mitigation technologies to be a valuable exercise.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

MA (Master of Arts)
bat fatalities, wind energy

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-03-17 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:36:33.

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