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Home arrow Environment arrow Bats in the Anthropocene: Conservation of Bats in a Changing World

Composition and Estimates of Bat Fatalities

We present information on estimates of bat fatalities as reported in published literature or publically available reports, but caution that studies had varying levels of effort, used different estimators (e.g., Huso 2011; Korner-Nievergelt et al. 2013) and different methods to quantify bias (Arnett et al. 2008; Strickland et al. 2011), thus biasing estimates. Also, most estimators fail to adequately account for unsearched area near turbines (Huso and Dalthorp 2013), which further biases estimates. Some studies report fatalities/turbine and others fatalities/MW of installed capacity. As such, data presented here offer a general and relative sense of fatalities within and among continents and do not represent quantitative comparisons.

North America

From 2000 to 2011 in the USA and Canada, annual bat fatality rates were highest at facilities located in the Northeastern Deciduous Forest (6.1–10.5 bats/MW; Fig. 11.3) and Midwestern Deciduous Forest-Agricultural (4.9–11.0 bats/MW) regions defined by Arnett and Baerwald (2013: 438). Average fatality rate in the

Fig. 11.3 Wind energy facilities on forested ridges in the eastern USA have consistently documented high fatality rates of bats (photograph by E.B. Arnett)

Great Plains region was moderately high (6 bats/MW, 95 % CI: 4.0–8.1 bats/MW), while the Great Basin/Southwest Desert region (1.0–1.8 bats/MW) consistently reports the least variable and lowest fatality rates for bats (Arnett et al. 2008; Arnett and Baerwald 2013; Johnson 2005). Wind energy facilities in this region occur in habitats generally offering few roosting resources, possibly (but untested) poor foraging opportunities, and may not be in migratory pathways, thus rendering these sites less risky to bats (Arnett and Baerwald 2013). However, facilities in other regions report high fatality rates of bats where there are large expanses of prairie and agricultural lands with few roosting resources, foraging opportunities, and likely migratory routes (e.g., Summer view Alberta, Canada, 8–14.6 bats/MW; Baerwald et al. 2008). Thus, current patterns in the Great Basin/Southwest region reported by Arnett and Baerwald (2013) may simply reflect biased reporting and an absence of evidence as opposed to evidence of absence (Huso and Dalthorp 2013).

Twenty-one of the 47 species of bats known to occur in the USA and Canada have been reported killed at wind energy facilities, and fatalities are skewed toward migratory species often referred to as “tree bats” that include hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus; 38 %), eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis; 22 %), and silverhaired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans; 18.4 %) that comprise a total of 78.4 % of the recovered bat turbine fatalities in the USA and Canada (Arnett and Baerwald 2013). However, other species also are affected, sometimes seriously. Fatalities of the cave-living Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) are quite frequent in the southern USA during the maternity period in summer (Miller 2008; Piorkowski and O'Connell 2010). In the USA, two species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act also have been killed by turbines, the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and Hawaiian hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus; Arnett and Baerwald 2013).

In the Oaxacan Isthmus region of Mexico, 32 of the 42 species of bats known to occupy this region (García-Grajales and Silva 2012; Briones-Salas et al. 2013) were found killed (Villegas-Patraca et al. 2012). These bats belonged to five different families (Mormoopidae, Molossidae, Vespertilionidae, Phyllostomidae, and Emballonuridae), although 52 % of the fatalities belonged to just two species, Davy's naked-backed bat (Pteronotus davyi; 40.2 %) and the ghost-faced bat (Mormoops megalophylla; 11.9 %), both of the family Mormoopidae. These two species are particularly abundant in the area studied and form colonies with thousands of individuals in caves (García-Grajales and Silva 2012). Both are aerial-hawking and relatively fast-flying bats (Bateman and Vaughan 1974; Adams 1989). Also, unlike those species killed most frequently in Holarctic regions of North America, these species do not tend to roost in trees. Ninety-seven percent of bat fatalities found at wind turbines are resident species. This differs considerably from the USA, Canada, and parts of northern Europe, suggesting that wind turbines are equally dangerous to resident cave bats assumed to be non-migratory as to migratory tree-roosting species. The common theme is rather that the most frequently killed species are adapted to flight and echolocation in the open air (e.g., bats that have a relatively high wing loading).

 
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