Ecological impact assessments fail to reduce risk of bat casualties at wind farms
Elsevier (Cell Press)
Open Access funded by Natural Environment Research Council. Under a Creative Commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Demand for renewable energy is rising exponentially. While this has benefits in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there may be costs to biodiversity . Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are the main tool used across the world to predict the overall positive and negative effects of renewable energy developments before planning consent is given, and the Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIAs) within them assess their species-specific effects. Given that EIAs are undertaken globally, are extremely expensive, and are enshrined in legislation, their place in evidence-based decision making deserves evaluation. Here we assess how well EIAs of wind-farm developments protect bats. We found they do not predict the risks to bats accurately, and even in those cases where high risk was correctly identified, the mitigation deployed did not avert the risk. Given that the primary purpose of an EIA is to make planning decisions evidence-based, our results indicate that EIA mitigation strategies used to date have been ineffective in protecting bats. In the future, greater emphasis should be placed on assessing the actual impacts post-construction and on developing effective mitigation strategies.
The research was supported by NERC Innovation funding (NE/M021882/1). We thank the site owners and operators who allowed access to the wind farm sites and our field workers. The research drew on data collected as part of the separate National Bats and Wind Turbines project which was funded by Defra, Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Renewable UK.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Elsevier via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 26 (21), pp. R1135 - R1136
Place of publication