Wind energy is a growing source of renewable energy with a 3-fold increase in use globally over the last decade. However, wind turbines cause bat mortality, especially for migratory species. The southwest United States has high bat species diversity and is an important area for migratory species, although little is known about their seasonal distribution. To examine potential risk to bats in areas proposed for wind energy development, we characterized bat occupancy spatially and temporally across northern Arizona, identifying use during summer when bats are reproductively active and fall during the migratory season. Our objectives were to determine occupancy of migratory species and species of greatest conservation need and develop a probability of occupancy map for species to identify areas of potential conflict with wind energy development. We selected 92 sites in 10 clusters with potential for development and used acoustic detectors to sample bats in the summer and fall of 2016 and 2017 for 6 nights per site per year. We predicted response of migratory bat species and species of special concern to 9 landscape variables using Program MARK. During summer, higher densities of forest on the landscape resulted in a higher probability of occupancy of migratory species such as hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus), silver-haired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans), big free-tailed bats (Nyctinomops macrotis), and species of conservation need such as spotted bats (Euderma maculatum). During the fall, higher concentration of valleys on the landscape predicted occupancy of hoary bats, big free-tailed bats, and spotted bats. High bat occupancy in the fall was also associated with higher elevation and close proximity to forests. We recommend that wind turbines be placed in open, flat grasslands away from forested landscapes and concentrations of valleys or other topographic variation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas