These good practice guidelines are based on guidance documents from North America and Europe for wildlife studies at operational wind energy facilities (WEFs), relevant published scientific literature and input from the South African Bat Assessment Advisory Panel (SABAAP). They are to be used as a guideline in developing protocols for operational monitoring for bat activity and fatalities at operating WEFs in South Africa. The objective of this document is to provide practitioners with a standard protocol to monitor and estimate bat mortality, facilitating comparison between fatality rates across different WEFs. By standardising protocols, comparable estimates can be achieved which will be valuable for understanding different levels of risk (Kunz et al. 2007). Protocols prescribed in this document will change as the impacts of wind turbines on bats in South Africa emerge.
Operational fatality studies are primarily concerned with assessing the patterns and fatality rates for bats and birds at a WEF and involve searching for bat and bird carcasses beneath wind turbines (Strickland et al. 2011) . This might identify species suffering mortality, specific periods of high risk (e.g. seasonally) and the environmental context of high bat and bird mortality. Because of their life-history characteristics, which includes low fecundity (i.e. low rates of producing and raising young), bat populations are slow to recover from disturbances and declines (Barclay & Harder 2003), and extinction might occur. This in turn runs the risk of infringing the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004, unless mitigation is implemented. Without information on bat activity and mortality after installation and during operation of wind turbines, effective mitigation cannot be proposed and instigated to reduce any substantive risk to bat populations.
Post-construction fatality monitoring should be designed to answer the following questions:
- What are the bat fatality rates for the facility?
- What are the fatality rates for species of concern (e.g. species with high conservation status, rare species and species at high risk of fatality)?
- Do bat fatalities vary with in a facility in relation to site characteristics?
- How do the fatality rates compare with those from facilities in similar landscapes with similar species composition?
- What is the composition of fatalities with respect to migrating and resident bat species?
- What is the relationship between bat activity and bat fatality?
- What is the relationship between bat fatality and environmental variables (e.g. wind speed)?
- What is the relationship between bat fatality and season?
- Do fatality rates suggest the need for measures to reduce impacts?
- Which mitigation methods are the most effective?