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Ecosystems, Wildlife, and Homegrown Renewable Energy: Smart Science for Decision Makers

Wind Turbines on a Farm.
Photo: Scientists have found that wind turbines are causing fatalities of certain species of migratory insect-eating bats, although a March 2011 study in Science suggests that solutions to reduce the impacts of wind turbines on bats may be possible. Credit: Paul Cryan, USGS.

Interest is booming in renewable energy sources, especially in the areas of wind, solar, and biofuels. Such energy sources have huge benefits, including diversification of the nation’s energy portfolio, new jobs, and potential reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Yet these energy sources sometimes have adverse effects on ecosystems and the wildlife that live in them, such as bats, birds, and reptiles and amphibians.  

Yet as our nation’s energy portfolio continues to grow in these areas, it is critical that development be guided by the best science available so that it happens in the right way and the right places.

USGS is in a unique position to provide that science, bringing together many fields of research to help managers, policymakers, industry, and others make decisions that allow for energy growth while responsibly lessening conflicts between renewable energy, ecosystems and wildlife. We bring new focus not only by using large-scale landscape or regional approaches for evaluating potential impacts to species and habitats, but also by unraveling the effects on the “small” scale, such as how and why a bat interacts with the blades of a wind turbine at night and whether solar panels block a migration path between feeding and breeding areas.

Our country’s know-how and ingenuity – combined with science – can help the United States grow a responsible, sustainable, and diversified energy future.


Science Feature

Photo: Needles District of Canyonlands National Park . Photograph credit: Tonya Troxler, USGS.
Photo: Needles District of Canyonlands National Park . Photograph credit:Tonya Troxler, USGS.

Homegrown Energy: Deserts Blooming with Biofuels? - USGS scientist Sasha Reed and other USGS researchers are actively evaluating the potential for and consequences of biofuel production in the Southwest. These scientists are conducting research to find answers to questions such as, what happens when biofuels are incorporated in different soil types and landscapes of the Southwest? And what effects will biofuel production have on ecosystems, dust production, or water quality and quantity? Read More >>

Wind and Solar Energy

Coal boring rig at dusk in Texas. Photo credit: USGS

Homegrown Energy: Wind and Solar


Coal boring rig at dusk in Texas. Photo credit: USGS

Homegrown Energy: Biofuels

Additional Resources

Windmills generating wind power in a grassy field.

Links to related resources on energy and wildlife


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Page Last Modified: Monday January 14 2013