Renewable energy? New research estimates that at least 600,000 bats were killed by wind turbines in 2012

Wind turbines are supposed to be less damaging to the environment than most other energy sources, but new research suggests that the turbines are slaughtering large numbers of bats.

A paper by University of Colorado biologist Mark Hayes that was published in the BioScience journal on Friday claims that over 600,000 bats were killed by wind turbines across the U.S. in 2012.

Hayes also believes this is a low estimate. And while bats aren't likely to win any prizes for being cute, they do play several vital roles in the ecosystem.

As reported by the LA Times, Hayes stated: 'Dead bats are being found underneath wind turbines across North America. This estimate of bat fatalities is probably conservative.'

The biological study recorded the bats found dead at wind energy facilities and produced other analysis to estimate an annual fatality count.

So Hayes is sure that this figure is on the low side for two main reasons. Firstly, animal scavengers may have taken away corpses before they could be counted.

Secondly, there was little statistical information available for the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains, which could be important areas to be taken into consideration.

Hayes's work suggests that the worst area for bat mortality is the Appalachian Mountains, especially Buffalo Mountain, Tennessee, and Mountaineer, West Virginia..

The biologist urged other scientists to keep studying the effect of wind turbines on bat populations. both now and in the future.

Little is known about why wind turbines have such a decimating effect on bats, mostly because they are difficult to research due to their often tiny size and nocturnal lives.

An article by the USGS Fort Collins Science Center states that the 'mystery of why bats die at turbine sites remains unsolved,' before posing some unanswered questions.

'Is it a simple case of flying in the wrong place at the wrong time? Are bats attracted to the spinning turbine blades?

Why are so many bats colliding with turbines compared to their infrequent crashes with other tall, human-made structures?'

Many experts, however, believe that the bat population is falling. As well as wind turbines, the mammals are threatened by diseases such as white-nose syndrome.

This condition is also poorly understood. But it first appeared in upstate New York in 2006 and is since thought to have killed between 5.7 million to 6.7 million North American bats.

Female bats also only give birth to one pup at a time so a high mortality rate causes more of a problem than in animals with impressive birth rates.

While many people are scared of bats, possibly due to their portrayal in popular culture, they do play some very important roles.

Bats fertilize plants by pollinating flowers - some tropical species rely exclusively on bats to disperse their seeds.

The flying mammals also eat huge quantities of insects. Each bat is typically able to consume several hundred bugs in a few hours.

If bat numbers were drastically decreased, insect numbers could shoot up correspondingly and have worrying consequences for crop yields and food production.

Read more:
600,000 bats killed at wind energy facilities in 2012, study says
Bat Fatalities at Wind Turbines: Investigating the Causes and Consequences


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BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats: Renewable energy? New research estimates that at least 600,000 bats were killed by wind turbines in 2012
Renewable energy? New research estimates that at least 600,000 bats were killed by wind turbines in 2012
Renewable energy? New research estimates that at least 600,000 bats were killed by wind turbines in 2012
BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats
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