Energy & Wildlife
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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 wildlife.
As our nation’s energy portfolio continues to grow, it is critical that energy development be guided by the best science available to ensure the coexistence of new power technologies and wildlife. USGS is in a unique position to provide that science through focused research on three main goals: understanding risks, measuring impacts, and developing solutions.Find out more
Scientific Support of Salmon and Steelhead Reintroductions in Impounded River Basins of the Pacific Northwest
Salmon and steelhead populations in the Pacific Northwest were severely affected by hydropower development that occurred during the first half of the 20th century. Impassable dams were constructed on many rivers throughout the region which prevented returning adult salmonids from accessing important habitats where spawning and rearing historically occurred. In the past two decades...
USGS research on wildlife behavior, abundance, and sources of mortality are improving our understanding of the specific effects of renewable energy on wildlife and habitats. This knowledge is guiding the development of effective strategies to minimize the impact of renewable energy development on wildlife. USGS is improving and developing software models and statistical tools that can be used...
USGS scientists are studying how biofuel crops may be affecting pollinators, especially in the Northern Great Plains. Changes in land use from bee-friendly crops to biofuel crops likely impact pollinators.
USGS is collaborating with the USDA Aridland Agricultural Research Center and the University of Ohio regarding the potential for Agave biofuel production to add to our national bioenergy portfolio in marginal lands. Agave may represent a highly efficient biofuel, even under non-irrigation conditions, but the ecosystem consequences of this development on drylands (including habitat and wildlife...
We are exploring models that relate measures of bat activity to environmental conditions, such as weather, moon phase, and day of year.
We are conducting daily fatality searches for bat carcasses in order to relate fatality pattern to measures of bat activity, as well as to daily environmental conditions - such as weather, moon phase, and day of year.
We are developing the theoretical statistical framework that would allow inference from known search effort and detectability parameters regarding estimated fatality when there are no or few observed carcasses. In addition, we are developing software that resource managers as well as developers can use to design fatality monitoring protocols optimized for different objectives.
We are investigating ways to accurately estimate this fraction in order to improve the accuracy of estimates and the efficiency of searching.
We are creating an estimator that allows a more general parameterization of carcass arrival and persistence times, while accommodating the different assumptions regarding the likelihood that a carcass is observed.
We are developing publicly available open-source software that uses data provided by the user to estimate the probability that a searcher will miss a carcass and the probability that a carcass will be removed before a searcher has the opportunity to observe it. The estimates are combined with the observed casualties and an estimate of the fraction of the population of killed animals expected...
The Team's research is organized into two major themes: 1) applied statistical methods and tools, which includes fatality estimation software; and 2) effects of wind energy development on wildlife, particularly bats.
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The team is affiliated with the FRESC Snake River Research Station, but work out of the FRESC Corvallis office...
The Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative (WLCI) addresses effects of land-use and climate changes on Southwest Wyoming’s natural resources. In partnership with twelve Federal, State, and local natural resource agencies, and non-governmental organizations– FORT and ten other USGS centers are conducting dozens of integrated science projects to assess the status of Southwest Wyoming’s...
USGS scientists collect data and develop tools and techniques to minimize potential negative effects of new energy development.Monitoring protocols and habitat-use models are providing the basis for understanding how wildlife can be affected by energy development, supporting permitting and siting of new facilities, and guiding strategies for mitigation.Learn more
This video describes a statistical software package called "Evidence of Absence" that can be used to provide evidence of compliance with incidental take permits. It will be useful to wildlife managers and wind energy operators to estimate, with reasonable certainty, that a certain number of birds or bats have been killed at wind energy facilities, even when no carcasses are found.
U.S. Geological Survey—Energy and Wildlife Research Annual Report for 2016
Recent growth and development of renewable energy and unconventional oil and gas extraction are rapidly diversifying the energy supply of the United States. Yet, as our Nation works to advance energy security and conserve wildlife, some conflicts have surfaced. To address these challenges, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is conducting innovative...Khalil, Mona
Renewable energy and wildlife conservation
The renewable energy sector is rapidly expanding and diversifying the power supply of the country. Yet, as our Nation works to advance renewable energy and to conserve wildlife, some conflicts arise. To address these challenges, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is conducting innovative research and developing workable solutions to reduce impacts...Khalil, Mona
Land-use change reduces habitat suitability for supporting managed honey bee colonies in the Northern Great Plains
Human reliance on insect pollination services continues to increase even as pollinator populations exhibit global declines. Increased commodity crop prices and federal subsidies for biofuel crops, such as corn and soybeans, have contributed to rapid land-use change in the US Northern Great Plains (NGP), changes that may jeopardize habitat for...Otto, Clint R.; Roth, Cali; Carlson, Benjamin; Smart, Matthew
Evaluating the effectiveness of wildlife detection and observation technologies at a solar power tower facility
Solar power towers produce electrical energy from sunlight at an industrial scale. Little is known about the effects of this technology on flying animals and few methods exist for automatically detecting or observing wildlife at solar towers and other tall anthropogenic structures. Smoking objects are sometimes observed co-occurring with reflected...Diehl, Robert H.; Valdez, Ernest W.; Preston, Todd M.; Wellik, Mike J.; Cryan, Paul
Impacts of climate change and renewable energy development on habitat of an endemic squirrel, Xerospermophilus mohavensis, in the Mojave Desert, USA
Predicting changes in species distributions under a changing climate is becoming widespread with the use of species distribution models (SDMs). The resulting predictions of future potential habitat can be cast in light of planned land use changes, such as urban expansion and energy development to identify areas with potential conflict. However,...Inman, Richard D.; Esque, Todd C.; Nussear, Kenneth E.; Leitner, Philip; Matocq, Marjorie D.; Weisberg, Peter J.; Dilts, Thomas E.
Mortality monitoring design for utility-scale solar power facilities
IntroductionSolar power represents an important and rapidly expanding component of the renewable energy portfolio of the United States (Lovich and Ennen, 2011; Hernandez and others, 2014). Understanding the impacts of renewable energy development on wildlife is a priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in compliance with Department...Huso, Manuela; Dietsch, Thomas; Nicolai, Chris
Multi-scale connectivity and graph theory highlight critical areas for conservation under climate change
Conservation planning and biodiversity management require information on landscape connectivity across a range of spatial scales from individual home ranges to large regions. Reduction in landscape connectivity due changes in land-use or development is expected to act synergistically with alterations to habitat mosaic configuration arising from...Dilts, Thomas E.; Weisberg, Peter J.; Leitner, Phillip; Matocq, Marjorie D.; Inman, Richard D.; Nussear, Ken E.; Esque, Todd C.
Habitat selection by juvenile Mojave Desert tortoises
Growing pressure to develop public lands for renewable energy production places several protected species at increased risk of habitat loss. One example is the Mojave desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), a species often at the center of conflicts over public land development. For this species and others on public lands, a better understanding of...Todd, Brian D; Halstead, Brian J.; Chiquoine, Lindsay P.; Peaden, J. Mark; Buhlmann, Kurt A.; Tuberville, Tracey D.; Nafus, Melia G.
Desert tortoise annotated bibliography, 1991-2015
Introduction Agassiz’s desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, was considered a single species for 150 years after its discovery by James Cooper (1861), with a geographic range extending from southeastern California, southern Nevada, and southwestern Utah southward into northern Sinaloa, Mexico (Murphy and others, 2011). What was once G....Berry, Kristin H.; Lyren, Lisa M.; Mack, Jeremy S.; Brand, L. Arriana; Wood, Dustin A.
Effects of wind-energy facilities on grassland bird distributions
The contribution of renewable energy to meet worldwide demand continues to grow. Wind energy is one of the fastest growing renewable sectors, but new wind facilities are often placed in prime wildlife habitat. Long-term studies that incorporate a rigorous statistical design to evaluate the effects of wind facilities on wildlife are rare. We...Shaffer, Jill A.; Buhl, Deb
Taxonomic characterization of honey bee (Apis mellifera) pollen foraging based on non-overlapping paired-end sequencing of nuclear ribosomal loci
Identifying plant taxa that honey bees (Apis mellifera) forage upon is of great apicultural interest, but traditional methods are labor intensive and may lack resolution. Here we evaluate a high-throughput genetic barcoding approach to characterize trap-collected pollen from multiple North Dakota apiaries across multiple years. We used the...Cornman, Robert S.; Otto, Clint R.; Iwanowicz, Deborah D.; Pettis, Jeffery S
A framework for decision points to trigger adaptive management actions in long-term incidental take permits
Introduction The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has begun to issue incidental take permits (ITPs) to wind power companies to allow limited take of bird and bat species that are protected under the Endangered Species Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, or the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (Huso and others, 2015). Expected take rates...Dalthorp, Daniel; Huso, Manuela
Software to Estimate Bird and Bat Fatality at Wind Farms
Tool to Evaluate Wildlife Fatalities at Wind-Power Facilities
Image of scientist setting up a radar system in Colorado to test its efficacy in detecting birds and bats flying towards spinning wind turbines.
USGS scientist Sarah Fitzgerald holds a surf scoter that has been fitted with a satellite tag that works by transmitting the location of the birds to satellites that are orbiting the Earth. (Jonathan Fiely, USGS)
Image from a remote camera placed in a golden eagle nest in the Mojave Desert. The parent is feed the chick a snake.
Mountain lions, desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, and a variety of other wildlife live on and pass through the Nevada National Security Site each day. It’s a highly restricted area that is free of hunting and has surprisingly pristine areas.This 22-minute program highlights an extraordinary study on how mountain lions interact with their prey. It shows how the scientists...
The Altamont Pass Wind Far is located in northern California.
Cell phone video of USGS biologist Diego Johnson releasing a golden eagle that had just been fitted with a tracking device. The work is informing land managers on eagle movements in the southwest, an area of expanding renewable energy development.
Golden eagles can be killed by colliding with a number of human-made objects, including wind turbines. USGS research wildlife biologist Todd Katzner describes his studies of golden eagle flight. This research is being done to model flight behavior which might help managers understand how placement of wind turbines might pose significant risks to golden eagles.
A female Agassiz's desert tortoise at Joshua Tree National Park lounges in the entrance of her burrow, wearing a USGS radio.
Wind turbines around a farm house
USGS scientist Dave Brandt holds a captured whooping crane while Dr. Barry Hartup with the International Crane Foundation assesses the bird's health before marking.
Bats at Turbines (B-roll): Surveillance video (B-roll) from a temperature-imaging camera showing a bat interacting with a wind turbine at about 3 a.m. on a brightly moonlit night in late August.[video resolution 614 by 454 pixels, limited by imaging device]
Wind turbine next to a dilapidated barn
Large soaring birds rely on topographic and weather conditions also preferred by wind facility developers.
Attempts to measure and mitigate the effects of wind turbines on wildlife have been an integral part of wind energy development.
Video surveillance is the most effective method for detecting animals flying around solar power towers, according to a study of various techniques by the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System facility in southeastern California.
USGS wishes to honor all mothers, of all species. Many of our research findings have and are shedding light on the lives of non-human moms.