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Demographic and potential biological removal models identify raptor species sensitive to current and future wind energy

June 1, 2021

A central challenge in applied ecology is understanding the effect of anthropogenic fatalities on wildlife populations and predicting which populations may be particularly vulnerable and in greatest need of management attention. We used 3 approaches to investigate potential effects of fatalities from collisions with wind turbines on 14 raptor species for both current (106 GW) and anticipated future (241 GW) levels of installed wind energy capacity in the United States. Our goals were to identify species at relatively high vs low risk of experiencing population declines from turbine collisions and to also compare results generated from these approaches. Two of the approaches used a calculated turbine-caused mortality rate to decrement population growth, where population trends were derived either from the North American Breeding Bird Survey or a matrix model parameterized from literature-derived demographic values. The third approach was potential biological removal, which estimates the number of fatalities that allow a population to reach and maintain its optimal sustainable population set by management concerns. Different results among the methods reveal substantial gaps in knowledge and uncertainty in both demographic parameters and species-specific estimates of fatalities from wind turbines. Our results suggest that, of the 14 species studied, those with relatively higher potential of population-level impacts from wind turbine collisions included barn owl, ferruginous hawk, golden eagle, American kestrel, and red-tailed hawk. Burrowing owl, Cooper’s hawk, great horned owl, northern harrier, turkey vulture, and osprey had a relatively lower potential for population impacts, and results were not easily interpretable for merlin, prairie falcon, and Swainson’s hawk. Projections of current levels of fatalities to future wind energy scenarios at 241 GW of installed capacity suggest some species could experience population declines because of turbine collisions. Populations of those species may benefit from research to identify tools to prevent or reduce raptor collisions with wind turbines.

Publication Year 2022
Title Demographic and potential biological removal models identify raptor species sensitive to current and future wind energy
DOI 10.1002/ecs2.3531
Authors James E. Diffendorfer, Jessica C. Stanton, Julie A. Beston, Wayne E. Thogmartin, Scott R. Loss, Todd E. Katzner, Douglas H. Johnson, Richard A. Erickson, Matthew D. Merrill, Margo D. Corum
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecosphere
Index ID 70232697
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Energy Resources Science Center; Energy Resources Program; Forest and Rangeland Ecosys Science Center; Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center; Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center; Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center