Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Scientists track down origin of bats killed by wind turbines using chemical fingerprints

Study is step toward understanding how to help bats impacted by wind-energy development

Date: March 17, 2016
Source: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

A new study tracks down the origin of bats killed by wind turbines in the Appalachian region using stable isotope and genetic analysis in hopes of better understanding the risks to affected populations.

Wind energy is a growing alternative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels. However, one impact of large-scale wind energy development has been widespread mortality of bats. A new study from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science tracks down the origin of bats killed by wind turbines in the Appalachian region in hopes of better understanding the risks to affected populations.

"We knew which species were being killed, but we didn't know how they were moving across the landscape, how many were out there, or what their genetic diversity was," said the study's co-author and Associate Professor David Nelson of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Appalachian Laboratory. "Our research is helping conservation managers to understand, 'Are these species that we need to be concerned about?'"

Wind-energy sites along the forested ridgelines of the Appalachian Mountains have some of the highest bat mortality rates in the world. The hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) and eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis) comprise the majority of the turbine-associated deaths in North America.

Little is known about the migration pathways of bats in North America or how wind-energy development may affect them. The researchers combined using stable isotope and genetic analysis for the first time to assess the impacts of wind-energy development on the bats impacted in the Appalachian region.

"Understanding the potential impacts of turbine-associated bat deaths is often complicated by a lack of data," said lead author Cortney Pylant. "Studies such as this can help to identify species and populations at particular risk."


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