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Acoustic and genetic data can reduce uncertainty regarding populations of migratory tree-roosting bats impacted by wind energy

December 30, 2021
Wind turbine-related mortality may pose a population-level threat for migratory tree-roosting bats, such as the hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) in North America. These species are dispersed within their range, making it impractical to estimate census populations size using traditional survey methods. Nonetheless, understanding population size and trends is essential for evaluating and mitigating risk from wind turbine mortality. Using various sampling techniques, including systematic acoustic sampling and genetic analyses, we argue that building a weight of evidence regarding bat population status and trends is possible to (1) assess the sustainability of mortality associated with wind turbines; (2) determine the level of mitigation required; and (3) evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation measures to ensure population viability for these species. Long-term, systematic data collection remains the most viable option for reducing uncertainty regarding population trends for migratory tree-roosting bats. We recommend collecting acoustic data using the statistically robust North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) protocols and that genetic diversity is monitored at repeated time intervals to show species trends. There are no short-term actions to resolve these population-level questions; however, we discuss opportunities for relatively short-term investments that will lead to long-term success in reducing uncertainty.