Wind turbines kill mostly female and juvenile bats

by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research
December 13, 2021

Many bats die at wind turbines when colliding with the spinning blades. Currently it is unclear whether all age cohorts or sexes are equally vulnerable. A comparison of age, sex and geographic origin of Nathusius’ pipistrelles killed at wind turbines and living conspecifics from nearby populations now reveals that juveniles are killed more frequently than adults compared to their proportion in local populations. Females are killed more frequently than males – yet in line with their higher proportion in local populations. The high number of killed females and the elevated vulnerability of juveniles may have a negative effect on the long-term survival of populations, indicating that the current practice of wind energy production may not be ecologically sustainable. The investigation was led by scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and is published in the scientific journal “Ecological Applications”.

In an effort to reduce the negative effects of CO2 emissions on global climate, many countries are promoting energy production from renewable sources such as wind. Although being considered environmentally friendly, wind energy production comes at notable costs to biodiversity. First, animal populations may suffer from habitat loss during wind turbine constructions in sensitive areas such as forests or wetlands. Second, birds and bats may be killed by operating turbines, either by directly colliding with the rotating blades of turbines or – in the case of bats – by a so-called barotrauma in the tailwind vortices of the spinning blades. Until now, it was unclear whether some age cohort or sex of bats may be particularly vulnerable to encounters with wind turbines. A higher vulnerability of, for example, female or juvenile bats might have strong conservation implications.

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