Volume 38, Issue 2 e14191
CONTRIBUTED PAPERS

The geographic extent of bird populations affected by renewable-energy development

Hannah B. Vander Zanden

Corresponding Author

Hannah B. Vander Zanden

Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA

Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Boise, Idaho, USA

Correspondence

Hannah B. Vander Zanden, Department of Biology, University of Florida, PO Box 118525, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA. Email: [email protected]

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David M. Nelson

David M. Nelson

Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Frostburg, Maryland, USA

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Tara J. Conkling

Tara J. Conkling

Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Boise, Idaho, USA

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Taber D. Allison

Taber D. Allison

Renewable Energy Wildlife Institute, Washington, District of Columbia, USA

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Jay E. Diffendorfer

Jay E. Diffendorfer

Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, Colorado, USA

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Thomas V. Dietsch

Thomas V. Dietsch

Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad, California, USA

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Amy L. Fesnock

Amy L. Fesnock

Bureau of Land Management, Palm Springs, California, USA

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Scott R. Loss

Scott R. Loss

Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA

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Patricia A. Ortiz

Patricia A. Ortiz

Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Boise, Idaho, USA

Pacific Region Migratory Birds and Habitat Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Boise, Idaho, USA

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Robin Paulman

Robin Paulman

Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Frostburg, Maryland, USA

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Krysta H. Rogers

Krysta H. Rogers

Wildlife Health Laboratory, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Rancho Cordova, California, USA

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Peter M. Sanzenbacher

Peter M. Sanzenbacher

Palm Springs Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Palm Springs, California, USA

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Todd E. Katzner

Todd E. Katzner

Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Boise, Idaho, USA

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First published: 05 January 2024

Article impact statement: Renewable-energy facilities in California kill birds from broad, but variable, geographic ranges that extend far beyond the state's borders.

Abstract

en

Bird populations are declining globally. Wind and solar energy can reduce emissions of fossil fuels that drive anthropogenic climate change, yet renewable-energy production represents a potential threat to bird species. Surveys to assess potential effects at renewable-energy facilities are exclusively local, and the geographic extent encompassed by birds killed at these facilities is largely unknown, which creates challenges for minimizing and mitigating the population-level and cumulative effects of these fatalities. We performed geospatial analyses of stable hydrogen isotope data obtained from feathers of 871 individuals of 24 bird species found dead at solar- and wind-energy facilities in California (USA). Most species had individuals with a mix of origins, ranging from 23% to 98% nonlocal. Mean minimum distances to areas of likely origin for nonlocal individuals were as close as 97 to >1250 km, and these minimum distances were larger for species found at solar-energy facilities in deserts than at wind-energy facilities in grasslands (Cohen's d = 6.5). Fatalities were drawn from an estimated 30–100% of species’ desingated ranges, and this percentage was significantly smaller for species with large ranges found at wind facilities (Pearson's r = −0.67). Temporal patterns in the geographic origin of fatalities suggested that migratory movements and nonmigratory movements, such as dispersal and nomadism, influence exposure to fatality risk for these birds. Our results illustrate the power of using stable isotope data to assess the geographic extent of renewable-energy fatalities on birds. As the buildout of renewable-energy facilities continues, accurate assessment of the geographic footprint of wildlife fatalities can be used to inform compensatory mitigation for their population-level and cumulative effects.

Abstract

es

Extensión geográfica de las poblaciones de aves afectadas por desarrollos de energía renovable

Resumen

Las poblaciones mundiales de aves están en declive. Las energías solar y eólica pueden reducir las emisiones de combustibles fósiles que causan el cambio climático, aunque la producción de energías renovables representa una amenaza potencial para las aves. Los censos para evaluar los efectos potenciales en los centros de energía renovable son exclusivamente locales y se sabe poco sobre la extensión geográfica representada por las aves que mueren en estas instalaciones, lo que plantea obstáculos para mitigar los efectos acumulativos y de nivel poblacional de estas muertes. Realizamos análisis geoespaciales con datos del isótopo de hidrógeno estable obtenido de las plumas de 871 ejemplares de 24 especies de aves que fueron hallados muertos en los centros de energía solar y eólica en California, EE.UU. La mayoría de las especies contó con ejemplares de orígenes mixtos, con un rango del 23% al 98% no local. La media de la distancia mínima a las áreas de probable origen de los ejemplares no locales varía entre los 97 hasta > 1,250 km. Estas distancias mínimas fueron mayores para las especies encontradas en los centros de energía solar situadas en desiertos que para las especies encontradas en los centros de energía eólica localizadas en pastizales (d de Cohen = 6.5). Las muertes representan un 30–100% de la extensión de las especies. Este porcentaje fue significativamente menor para las especies con extensiones amplias encontradas en instalaciones eólicas (r de Pearson = –0.67). Los patrones temporales en el origen geográfico de las muertes sugieren que los movimientos migratorios y no migratorios, como la dispersión y el nomadismo, influyen en la exposición de estas aves al riesgo de muerte. Nuestros resultados demuestran la utilidad de los isótopos estables para evaluar el alcance geográfico de las muertes de aves asociadas a energías renovables. Con el progresivo aumento de instalaciones de energía renovable, una evaluación precisa de la huella geográfica de la mortandad de fauna salvaje podrá guiar la mitigación compensatoria de sus efectos acumulativos y de nivel poblacional.