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, 2 (3), e297

Bats Avoid Radar Installations: Could Electromagnetic Fields Deter Bats From Colliding With Wind Turbines?


Bats Avoid Radar Installations: Could Electromagnetic Fields Deter Bats From Colliding With Wind Turbines?

Barry Nicholls et al. PLoS One.


Large numbers of bats are killed by collisions with wind turbines, and there is at present no direct method of reducing or preventing this mortality. We therefore determine whether the electromagnetic radiation associated with radar installations can elicit an aversive behavioural response in foraging bats. Four civil air traffic control (ATC) radar stations, three military ATC radars and three weather radars were selected, each surrounded by heterogeneous habitat. Three sampling points matched for habitat type and structure, dominant vegetation species, altitude and surrounding land class were located at increasing distances from each station. A portable electromagnetic field meter measured the field strength of the radar at three distances from the source: in close proximity (<200 m) with a high electromagnetic field (EMF) strength >2 volts/metre, an intermediate point within line of sight of the radar (200-400 m) and with an EMF strength <2 v/m, and a control site out of sight of the radar (>400 m) and registering an EMF of zero v/m. At each radar station bat activity was recorded three times with three independent sampling points monitored on each occasion, resulting in a total of 90 samples, 30 of which were obtained within each field strength category. At these sampling points, bat activity was recorded using an automatic bat recording station, operated from sunset to sunrise. Bat activity was significantly reduced in habitats exposed to an EMF strength of greater than 2 v/m when compared to matched sites registering EMF levels of zero. The reduction in bat activity was not significantly different at lower levels of EMF strength within 400 m of the radar. We predict that the reduction in bat activity within habitats exposed to electromagnetic radiation may be a result of thermal induction and an increased risk of hyperthermia.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Sampling protocol of surveys carried out at ten radar stations from June to September 2006.
At each radar station bat activity was recorded at three matched sites along an electromagnetic gradient (a1,a2,a3). Each radar installation was surveyed on three occasions throughout the study with three different sampling points (a,b,c) sampled on each occasion.
Figure 2
Figure 2. The differences in: (a) log bat active minutes (high EMF minus control).
A negative value indicates that bat activity was higher at the control site than at the site subject to a high electromagnetic field strength (>2 v/m). (b) log total number of bat passes (high EMF minus control). Each triad of differences represent a single radar site (n = 10).

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