Friday, 11 November 2016

Bat fatalities at wind farms prove unpredictable

Date: November 8, 2016
Source: Cell Press

Costly ecological impact assessments (EcIAs) completed prior to the building of wind farms have failed to protect bats from fatal collisions with the spinning blades. Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on November 7 say that, for reasons that aren't yet entirely clear, that's because surveys of bat activity conducted only before building begins are poor predictors of future bat fatalities.

"The findings highlight the difficulty of establishing with certainty the effect of major developments before they occur," says Fiona Mathews of the University of Exeter, UK. "This is a real problem for the planning system. In most countries, the system of Environmental Impact Assessment is based on the assumption that accurate assessment of risks can be made in advance and so appropriate steps [can be] taken to avoid any adverse effects -- or if the bad effects cannot be mitigated, then the development should not be permitted to go ahead. Our work highlights that this can be difficult to achieve in practice, as animals do not always behave the way we might anticipate."

Mathews and her colleagues surveyed 46 wind farms across the UK for bat fatalities over the course of a month as part of a study to determine the impact of wind turbines on bats. Because it's extremely difficult to find dead bats, her team relied heavily on search dogs to locate casualties, she explains. They also used audio analysis to characterize bat activity.

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