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Accounting for the fraction of carcasses outside the searched area in the estimation of bird and bat fatalities at wind energy facilities

April 30, 2024

Accurate estimation of bird and bat mortality at wind energy facilities requires accounting for carcasses that lie outside the search plots because they lie beyond the search radius or in areas within the search radius that remain unsearched due to sub-optimal search conditions such as thick vegetation, rough or dangerous ground, water, or restricted access to the land. However, carcass density is not constant around a turbine and the fraction of carcasses within the unsearched area can vary greatly depending on where the area lies relative to the turbine. The density-weighted proportion approach takes into account the changing density of carcasses around turbines to estimate the fraction of carcasses lying in unsearched areas (dwp). It involves tallying the carcasses found in concentric rings centered at the turbine, fitting a curve to the carcass densities in the rings, and dividing the integral of the curve over the area searched by the integral over the total area. Accounting for unsearched area presents special difficulties such as extrapolation beyond the search radius, spatial prediction, and model selection, which are frequently ignored or under-appreciated, potentially resulting in substantial estimation errors.

A powerful new R software package (dwp) is available to perform the calculations, given the distances at which carcasses were found from turbines and a map of the searched area used to discern the fraction of the ground searched at each distance. If all ground within a given search radius has been searched, the map is simply the search radius. For more complicated search plots, other kinds of maps may be used: R polygons for plots that can be readily delineated into searched and not-searched areas (for example, searches restricted to access roads and turbine pads), GIS shape files for complicated search patterns (for example, non-uniform vegetation or ground texture resulting in spatially varying search conditions), or raster files for complicated search patterns coupled with carcass spatial distribution that depends on both distance and direction from turbines.

This study discusses estimation and interpretation of dwp in the context of several realistic examples; provides guidance for use of the dwp software for doing the analyses; and addresses questions of extrapolation, spatial prediction, and model selection.

Publication Year 2024
Title Accounting for the fraction of carcasses outside the searched area in the estimation of bird and bat fatalities at wind energy facilities
DOI 10.3133/tm7A3
Authors Daniel Dalthorp, Manuela Huso, Mark Dalthorp, Jeffrey Mintz
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Techniques and Methods
Series Number 7-A3
Index ID tm7A3
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse