Barbastelle bats in a wind farm: are they at risk?
We need to know if and how western barbastelles Barbastella barbastellus are affected by wind farming in Sweden. This is because wind turbines are frequently constructed in barbastelle habitats and yet there is no national guideline on how the arising conflict should be handled. We studied the movement, behavior and mortality of a barbastelle population at a wind farm in southern Sweden, using radio-telemetry, automatic bat detectors and carcass searches. The tagged bats (6 males and 8 females) roosted mainly under loose bark of dead oak trees and foraged in patches of mature deciduous woodlands or pockets of mature spruce trees within 15 km of the roosts. Extensive areas of young spruce plantation, open farmland and lakes were not used for roosting or foraging but were crossed by commuting bats. Continuous recordings with bat detectors frequently picked up barbastelles at forest edges 30 m from the turbines, but rarely over the turbine pads within 10 m from the turbines and never at heights of 30 and 100 m at the turbine towers. Barbastelles were apparently not attracted to the wind turbines and did not seem to interact with them in any way. Carcass searches under 10 wind turbines at 1-week intervals over three summers did not reveal any dead barbastelles, although three other species were recovered. We conclude that wind farming is not nessarily incompatible with effective conservation of barbastelles in Sweden, but instead of focusing on wind turbines, effors should concentrate on (a) preservation and restoration of mature, age-structured deciduous woodlands and spruce forests, including very small and isolated patches, which provide food and roosts, and probably also (b) avoidance of outdoor lighting in areas used by barbastelles. Designating large circular buffer zones around each known or suspected colony according to current practice would be inefficient or meaningless in our case, because barbastelles use extensive home ranges and switch roost frequently. We argue that barbastelle management must be applied on a landscape scale.
KeywordsAcoustic monitoring Carcass search Echolocation Radio-telemetry Wind energy
We acknowledge the owners of the wind turbines Askome Vind AB for their participation in this project, including practical help with the detectors and microphones, Justyna Błesznowska. Ewelina Małkowicz and Julio Rabadán for assistance in the field, and last but not least all the land owners who more or less deliberately accepted our presence around their houses at night in search of tagged bats. We also like to thank Tim Hipkiss for checking our English text.
This project was funded by the Swedish Energy Agency through the Vindval program (no. 2016-000101). Capture and tagging of bats were carried out under licence from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (NV-08056-11) and the Ethical Committee in Malmö/Lund (M 65-16).
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