Using weather radar to help minimize wind energy impacts on nocturnally migrating birds

Authors: Emily B. Cohen, Jeffrey J. Buler, Kyle G. Horton, Scott R. Loss, Sergio A. Cabrera-Cruz, Jaclyn A. Smolinsky, and Peter P. Marra

Year: 2022

Publication: Conservation Letters

Publication Link:

Keywords: animal migration, Great Lakes, migratory birds, renewable energy, weather surveillance radar, wind development, wind-wildlife


As wind energy rapidly expands worldwide, information to minimize impacts of
this development on biodiversity is urgently needed. Here we demonstrate how
data collected by weather radar networks can inform placement and operation
of wind facilities to reduce collisions and minimize habitat-related impacts on
nocturnally migrating birds. We found over a third of nocturnal migrants flew
through altitudes within the rotor-swept zone surrounding the North American
Great Lakes, a continentally important migration corridor. Migrating birds concentrated
in terrestrial stopover habitats within 20-km from shorelines, a distance
well beyond the current guidelines for construction of new land-based
facilities, and their distributions varied seasonally and at local and regional
scales, creating predictable opportunities to minimize impacts from wind energy
development and operation. Networked radar data are available across the
United States and other countries and broad application of this approach could
provide information critical to bird-friendly expansion of this globally important
energy source.

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