likely with the turbine blades. Species differ in their vulnerability to collision, in the likelihood that fatalities will have large-scale cumulative impacts on biotic communities, and in the extent to which their fatalities are discovered and publicized. This chapter reviews information on the probabilities of fatalities, which are affected by both abundance and behavioral characteristics of each species.

Factors such as the type, location, and operational schedules of turbines that may influence bird and bat fatalities are reviewed in this chapter. The overall importance of turbine-related deaths for bird populations is unclear. Collisions with wind turbines represent one element of the cumulative anthropogenic impacts on bird populations; other impacts include collisions with tall buildings, communications towers, other structures, and vehicles, as well as other sources of mortality such as predation by house cats (Erickson et al. 2001, 2005). While estimation of avian fatalities caused by wind-power generation is possible, the data on total bird deaths caused by most anthropogenic sources, including wind turbines, are sparse and less reliable than one would wish, and therefore it is not possible to provide an accurate estimate of the incremental contribution of wind-powered generation to cumulative bird deaths in time and space at current levels of development.

Data on bat fatalities are even sparser. While there have been a few reports of bat kills from other anthropogenic sources (e.g., through collisions with buildings and communications towers), the recent bat fatalities from wind turbines appear to be unprecedentedly high. More data on direct comparisons of turbine types are needed to establish whether and why migratory bats appear to be at the greatest risk of being killed. Clearly, a better understanding of the biology of the populations at risk and analysis of the cumulative effects of wind turbines and other anthropogenic sources on bird and bat mortality are needed.

The construction and maintenance of wind-energy facilities alter ecosystem structure, through vegetation clearing, soil disruption, and potential for erosion, and this is particularly problematic in areas that are difficult to reclaim, such as desert, shrub-steppe, and forested areas. In the MidAtlantic Highlands forest clearing represents perhaps the most significant potential change through fragmentation and loss of habitat for forest-dependent species. Changes in forest structure and the creation of openings alter microclimate and increase the amount of forest edge. There may also be important interactions between habitat alteration and the risk of fatalities, such as bat foraging behavior near turbines.

The recommendations in this chapter address the types of studies that need to be conducted prior to siting and prior to and following construction of wind-energy facilities to evaluate the potential and realized ecological impacts of wind-energy development. The recommendations also address

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement