Wind turbines in forests weaken threatened bat species!

In order to meet climate protection goals, renewable energies—mostly wind power—are booming. More than 30,000 turbines have already been installed on the German mainland to date, and the industry is currently seeking increasingly scarce suitable sites. Thus, forests came into focus as potential sites. A scientific team from the Leibniz Institute for Animal and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) has now shown in a new research paper published in the scientific journal “Current Biology” that wind turbines in forests weaken an endangered bat species: common noctules (Nyctalus noctula), highly susceptible species are attracted The risk of the rotor blades colliding with forest wind turbines if they are located near their locations. Away from roosts, common nocturnals avoid turbines, essentially leading to a loss of foraging space and thus habitat for this species.

Research findings show that common cores suffer in two ways from forest wind turbines: if wind turbines are built close to roosts, cores face an increased risk of colliding with the turbines, and lose foraging habitats as they avoid wind turbines away from roosts. . In their paper, the team concluded that wind energy development in forests should be avoided or, if there is no alternative, that extreme caution and caution should be exercised. Wind turbines should be located at least 500 meters from bats’ roosting sites, and loss of foraging habitat should be compensated for by deforestation from wind energy use (or other human activities) elsewhere.

Wind energy production is an important pillar of the energy transition to renewable energies in Germany, and it also contributes significantly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Almost eight percent of wind turbines in Germany are already built in forests. This number is expected to increase exponentially in the coming years as suitable sites in open landscapes become increasingly scarce. “There are a large number of bat species in forests because there are many tree roosts and suitable foraging habitats with a high abundance of insects and their prey,” says Christian Voigt, Head of Evolutionary Ecology at Leibniz-IZW. These include species such as the common noctule, which is the most frequent victim among the bat species of wind turbines in Germany. According to the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), numbers of common noctules are declining across Germany. It is urgent to take a closer look at bat interaction With wind turbines in the forests.”

Voigt and co-workers investigated the space-use behavior of common anomalies using miniature GPS recorders. These recorders recorded the flight paths of 60 bats with high accuracy of time and location over 1–2 nights before woodlice spontaneously emerged from each animal. “We found that co-nuclei were particularly likely to approach wind turbines if the latter were located near bat roosts,” Voigt explains. As highly social mammals, bats use exposed structures as meeting sites. This may be the reason why they often approach wind turbines, which are high above the canopy, if the turbines are located near perches. This is too dangerous for animals to collide with the rotor blades. “Wind turbines should be built at a sufficient distance from existing tree perches,” concludes Christine Rioch, first author of the paper. “Because roosts can also be newly established, there is a risk that supposedly safe wind turbines, initially erected at a sufficiently large distance from existing bat roosts during the approval phase, could be death traps,” adds Reusch.

The authors also found that away from tree perches, common nocturnals avoided wind turbines. They discovered this after they performed a data analysis in which all bat GPS locations near roosts were excluded from the analysis. This showed that bats avoid wind turbines if placed farther from roosts. “This sounds like good news, but there is a problematic side to it,” says Voigt. “Due to their avoidance behavior, mainly common nocturnal bats lose important hunting habitats.” Scientists therefore recommend that, firstly, wind turbines should not be located in forests, and secondly, special care should be taken if there are no alternatives. A minimum distance of 500 m from wind turbines to known bat roosts must be taken into account during approval procedures and loss of foraging habitat near wind turbines must be compensated for elsewhere. The expansion of wind power production in forests is therefore a major conservation challenge given the complex interaction of bats with forest wind turbines, according to Voigt and Reusch.

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