Bat movements across transforming landscapes
May 2013 - June 2018
- nebraska Environmental Trust
Nebraska has a diverse mix of resident and migratory bat species. Because of the diversity of habitats found throughout Nebraska, there is no place in the state where all 13 bats species occur together. The Nebraska Natural Legacy Project State Wildlife Action Plan lists five bat species as either Tier I or Tier II at-risk Species. At the national level, northern long-eared myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) is currently being considered as a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act. Bats provide critical ecosystem services in the form of insect consumption, pollination, and seed dispersal. The economic importance of bats was estimated in 2011 to be about $22.9 billion to the agricultural industry or on average $74 per acre. In a state dominated by agriculture, such as Nebraska, the loss of bats could result in increased money spent for pesticides and other insect control measures. The potential synergistic impacts of wind energy development and white-nose syndrome on bats could have unanticipated consequences in Nebraska and around the nation. The discovery of dead bats under wind turbines was unanticipated by scientists and wind energy companies. The seven most common bat species found dead near wind turbines are all either resident or migratory bats found in Nebraska. White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a deadly fungus that affects hibernating bats. Four of the eleven bat species affected are found in Nebraska. Potential negative impacts of wind energy development on bats can be avoided or minimized through siting and operation that take into consideration bat presence and activity. We need more knowledge of bat migration patterns and habitat use in Nebraska to help protect bats and their habitats from the potential impacts of wind energy development, and to help utility companies, wind energy developers, and facility owners to manage and mitigate the effects of new and existing wind energy facilities. Through the deployment of over 20 ultrasonic acoustic detectors for two years, we plan to identify when and where bats are moving in eastern Nebraska during spring and fall migration and summer residence. Information gathered from this project will be shared in a variety of formats and used to further promote sound resource management practices in regards to wind energy development. Partners on this project include the Nebraska Wind Energy and Wildlife Project, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.