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Numbers of wildlife fatalities at renewable energy facilities in a targeted development region

December 15, 2023

Increased interest in renewable energy has fostered development of wind and solar energy facilities globally. However, energy development sometimes has negative environmental impacts, such as wildlife fatalities. Efforts by regional land managers to balance energy potential while minimizing fatality risk currently rely on datasets that are aggregated at continental, but not regional scales, that focus on single species, or that implement meta-analyses that inappropriately use inferential statistics. We compiled and summarized fatality data from 87 reports for solar and wind facilities in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts region of southern California within the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan area. Our goal was to evaluate potential temporal and guild-specific patterns in fatalities, especially for priority species of conservation concern. We also aimed to provide a perspective on approaches interpreting these types of data, given inherent limitations in how they were collected. Mourning doves (Zenaida macroura), Chukar (Alectoris chukar) and California Quail (Callipepla californica), and passerines (Passeriformes), accounted for the most commonly reported fatalities. However, our aggregated count data were derived from raw, uncorrected totals, and thus reflect an absolute minimum number of fatalities for the monitored period. Additionally, patterns in the raw data suggested that many species commonly documented as fatalities (e.g., waterbirds and other nocturnal migrants, bats) are rarely counted during typical pre-construction use surveys. This may explain the more commonly observed mismatch between pre-construction risk assessment and actual fatalities. Our work may serve to guide design of future scientific research to address temporal and spatial patterns in fatalities and to apply rigorous guild-specific survey methodologies to estimate populations at risk from renewable energy development.

Publication Year 2024
Title Numbers of wildlife fatalities at renewable energy facilities in a targeted development region
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0295552
Authors Tara Conkling, Amy L. Fesnock, Todd E. Katzner
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title PLoS ONE
Index ID 70251815
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center