Causes and Consequences of Bat Fatalities at Wind Turbines

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Bats in the night sky in Texas
Bats in the night sky in Texas

Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing energy industries in the world, and increasing numbers of bats in both North America and Europe are mysteriously dying at wind turbines. Causes of bat collisions with turbines remain undetermined, although migratory species that roost in trees ("tree bats") are disproportionately affected. This task aims to determine the causes of bat collisions with turbines and assess the potential consequences of turbines on susceptible bat populations. In particular, FORT biologists are building upon their earlier studies of migration in tree bats to help determine (1) the geographic origins of bats affected by turbines, using stable isotope techniques to identify the geographic origins of migratory hoary bats found dead at wind turbine facilities; (2) whether bats are attracted to turbines; (3) if mating and/or feeding behaviors play a role in fatalities; and (4) new ways of detecting and observing bats at heights of wind turbines (50–200m). Results of this work will be applicable toward assessing the health of tree bat populations and developing management strategies to minimize the impacts of turbines on bats.