Predicting Potential Conflict Areas Between Wind Energy Development and Eastern Red Bats (Lasiurus borealis) in Indiana

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Conference Proceeding

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Wind turbines pose threats to bats due to the risk of collisions, barotrauma, habitat loss, and environmental changes. To assess potential conflicts between wind energy development and the summer habitat of the eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis) in Indiana, we used a species distribution modeling approach (MaxEnt) to generate two predictive models. We created a model representing areas with the potential for future wind energy development based on six environmental characteristics along with the locations of wind turbines. To create models of habitat suitability for summer resident eastern red bats, we used detections of eastern red bats collected via mobile acoustic surveys. We modeled these with 20 environmental variables that characterize potentially suitable eastern red bat summer habitat. Wind power at a height of 50 m, wind speed at a height of 100 m, and land cover type were the most influential predictors of wind energy development. Proportion of forest within 500 m and 1 km and forest edge within 5 km were the most important variables for predicting suitable summer habitat for red bats. Overlaid maps revealed that approximately three-quarters of the state was unsuitable for both wind development and red bats. Less than 1% of the state showed areas suitable for both wind development and red bats, which made up an area of about 4 km2. Primarily, these were rural areas where cropland was adjacent to forest patches. Predicting areas with potential conflicts can be an invaluable source for reducing impacts of wind energy development on resident red bats.

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