Increases in domestic energy demand have the potential to negatively affect wildlife populations that are particularly sensitive to landscape change. The negative effects of landscape change on lesser prairie-chicken populations have been well documented, but little is known about the effects of wind energy development on this species. To estimate the effects of wind energy development on various lesser prairie-chicken population metrics, we captured and monitored 43 male and 32 female lesser prairie-chickens over a three-year period following the development of a wind energy facility in southern Kansas. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of wind energy infrastructure on multiple lesser prairie-chicken population parameters to provide a basis for evaluating potential future population-level effects. We found that lesser prairie-chickens selected habitats regardless of the presence of wind energy infrastructure during the nesting, breeding, and non-breeding time periods. In addition, nest and annual male and female adult survival were not negatively affected by wind energy infrastructure during the study. However, while our study results suggest that habitat selection did not result in fitness consequences, such impacts may not have been fully realized due to the relatively short study period and the inherent site fidelity exhibited in lesser prairie-chicken populations. The wind energy infrastructure was placed in previously altered landscapes, and we hypothesize that the impacts of this alteration have likely already been realized on the parameters we analyzed in this study. Our results suggest that the current wind energy development practice of siting wind energy facilities in altered habitats and outside of intact habitats within the range of lesser prairie-chickens may be a useful impact minimization tool.
A two page Results Summary for this report is available here.