Bats are constantly being killed by windmills, and researchers have starting working on finding a way to protect them. The research took place in the Appalachians, a place where the most numbers of deaths occur, and will hopefully save the lives of the flying mammals.
According to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife assistant director Tom French in Massachusetts, only one wind turbine can kill up to seventy bats each year. In this light, scientists are trying to determine in which ways wind power is damaging wildlife.
As ecology professor David Nelson from the University of Maryland has stated, the scientists are laying a foundation before any conservation decisions will be taken. Nelson was also a co-author of the study.
Published in the Ecological Applications journal, the research made use of genetic information in order to track the bats that were killed by wind turbines in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland. Scientists had to calculate the sizes of the populations of two species that are affected: the hoary bats and the red bats. Upon finishing the process, they determined that there are hundreds of millions of red bats. However, the hoary bats number only tens of thousands.
Wind turbines cannot be blamed for mass deaths like skyscrapers or radio towers when entire flocks of birds unwittingly fly into these constructions. However, turbine blades might endanger especially bats because the winged mammals seem to be attracted to their movement. According to French, fewer birds and more bats get killed by windmills than it would be expected.
The study has shown which bat species is the most affected, but also the ways in which wind turbines are impacting their migration patterns. It appears that the bats that die in the Appalachians are all local, so other species that migrate do not fly into the blades.
What could be done about the situation? One strategy involves curtailment, turning off the turbines during certain times, for example when mass migrations are expected. Since the turbines can only maximize their power output when high winds are blowing, bats would be sheltered because they only fly on calm nights.
Another solution is currently being experimented in California: the shrouded turbines that have flaps which ring the turbine’s perimeter. Furthermore, their design is meant to boost their efficiency while they are placed below the normal flight level of birds.
Research on the matter will continue until when a suitable solution will be found.
Image Source: The Spectator
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