Wind turbine collisions and the deadly bat disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) can together intensify the decline of endangered Indiana bat populations in the midwestern United States, according to a recently published U.S. Geological Survey study.
“Bats are valuable because, by eating insects, they save U.S. agriculture billions of dollars per year in pest control,” said USGS scientist Richard Erickson, the lead author of the study. “Our research is important for understanding the threats to endangered Indiana bats and can help inform conservation efforts.”
Wind energy generation can cause bat mortality when certain species, including the midwestern Indiana bat, approach turbines during migration. Meanwhile, WNS, which is caused by the Pseudogymnoascus destructans fungus, has killed millions of hibernating bats in North America and is spreading. The new study found that the combination of these two hazards has a larger negative impact on Indiana bats than either threat alone.
The researchers used a scientific model to compare how wind turbine mortality and WNS may singly and then together affect Indiana bat population dynamics throughout the species’ U.S. range. Findings from the model include:
“These findings are useful for wildlife managers because they demonstrate the extra importance of protecting small Indiana bat colonies during the winter to help prevent extinction,” Erickson said.
WNS is not known to pose a threat to humans, pets, livestock or other wildlife.
For more information about bats, wind energy and WNS, please visit the USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, the USGS Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center websites.
Visit whitenosesyndrome.org to learn about the coordinated response to WNS, led by the USFWS.
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