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Limitations, lack of standardization, and recommended best practices in studies of renewable energy effects on birds and bats

January 8, 2020

Increasing global energy demand is fostering the development of renewable energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. However, renewable energy facilities may adversely affect wildlife. Facility siting guidelines recommend or require project developers complete pre‐ and postconstruction wildlife surveys to predict risk and estimate effects of proposed projects. Despite this, there are no published studies that have quantified the types of surveys used or how survey types are standardized within and across facilities. We evaluated 628 peer‐reviewed publications, unpublished reports, and citations, and we analyzed data from 525 of these sources (203 facilities: 193 wind and 10 solar) in the United States and Canada to determine the frequency of pre‐ and postconstruction surveys and whether that frequency changed over time; frequency of studies explicitly designed to allow before‐after or impact‐control analyses; and what types of survey data were collected during pre‐ and postconstruction periods and how those data types were standardized across periods and among facilities. Within our data set, postconstruction monitoring for wildlife fatalities and habitat use was a standard practice (n = 446 reports), but preconstruction estimation of baseline wildlife habitat use and mortality was less frequently reported (n = 84). Only 22% (n = 45) of the 203 facilities provided data from both pre‐ and postconstruction, and 29% (n = 59) had experimental study designs. Of 108 facilities at which habitat‐use surveys were conducted, only 3% estimated of detection probability. Thus, the available data generally preclude comparison of biological data across construction periods and among facilities. Use of experimental study designs and following similar field protocols would improve the knowledge of how renewable energy affects wildlife.

Publication Year 2021
Title Limitations, lack of standardization, and recommended best practices in studies of renewable energy effects on birds and bats
DOI 10.1111/cobi.13457
Authors Tara Conkling, S. R. Loss, James E. Diffendorfer, A. Duerr, Todd E. Katzner
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Conservation Biology
Index ID 70219477
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center