Turbines and Terrestrial Vertebrates: Variation in Tortoise Survivorship Between a Wind Energy Facility and an Adjacent Undisturbed Wildland Area in the Desert Southwest (USA)

Journal Article

Title: Turbines and Terrestrial Vertebrates: Variation in Tortoise Survivorship Between a Wind Energy Facility and an Adjacent Undisturbed Wildland Area in the Desert Southwest (USA)
Publication Date:
August 01, 2015
Journal: Environmental Management
Volume: 56
Issue: 2
Pages: 332-341
Publisher: Springer

Document Access

Website: External Link

Citation

Agha, M.; Lovich, J.; Ennen, J.; Augustine, B.; Arundel, T.; Murphy, M.; Meyer-Wilkins, K.; Bjurlin, C.; Delaney, D.; Briggs, J.; Austin, M.; Madrak, S.; Price, S. (2015). Turbines and Terrestrial Vertebrates: Variation in Tortoise Survivorship Between a Wind Energy Facility and an Adjacent Undisturbed Wildland Area in the Desert Southwest (USA). Environmental Management, 56(2), 332-341.
Abstract: 

With the recent increase in utility-scale wind energy development, researchers have become increasingly concerned how this activity will affect wildlife and their habitat. To understand the potential impacts of wind energy facilities (WEF) post-construction (i.e., operation and maintenance) on wildlife, we compared differences in activity centers and survivorship of Agassiz's desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) inside or near a WEF to neighboring tortoises living near a wilderness area (NWA) and farther from the WEF. We found that the size of tortoise activity centers varied, but not significantly so, between the WEF (6.25 + 2.13 ha) and adjacent NWA (4.13 + 1.23 ha). However, apparent survival did differ significantly between the habitat types: over the 18-year study period apparent annual survival estimates were 0.96 + 0.01 for WEF tortoises and 0.92 + 0.02 for tortoises in the NWA. High annual survival suggests that operation and maintenance of the WEF has not caused considerable declines in the adult population over the past two decades. Low traffic volume, enhanced resource availability, and decreased predator populations may influence annual survivorship at this WEF. Further research on these proximate mechanisms and population recruitment would be useful for mitigating and managing post-development impacts of utility-scale wind energy on long-lived terrestrial vertebrates.

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