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Spatial demographic models to inform conservation planning of golden eagles in renewable energy landscapes.
Wiens, J., N. Schumaker, R. Inman, T. Esque, K. Longshore, AND K. Nussear. Spatial demographic models to inform conservation planning of golden eagles in renewable energy landscapes. JOURNAL OF RAPTOR RESEARCH. Ornithological Society of North America, Lawrence, KS, 51(3):234-257, (2017).
Spatial demographic models can help guide monitoring and management activities targeting at-risk species, even in cases where baseline data are lacking. Here, we provide an example of how site-specific changes in land-use and other anthropogenic stressors can be incorporated into a spatial demographic model to investigate effects on population dynamics of Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos). Our study focused on a population of Golden Eagles exposed to rapid increases in renewable energy development in southeastern California, USA. We developed a spatially-explicit, individual-based simulation model that integrated empirical data on demography and movement behavior of Golden Eagles with spatial data on the arrangement of nesting habitats, prey resources, and planned renewable energy development sites. Our model permitted simulated eagles of different stage-classes to disperse, establish home ranges, acquire resources, prospect for breeding sites, compete for territories, and reproduce. The distribution of nesting habitats, prey resources, and threats within each individual’s home range influenced movement, reproduction, and survival. We used our model to explore potential effects of future disturbance regimes, and proposed conservation strategies, on the distribution and abundance of Golden Eagles in the study region. Results from our simulations suggest that probable increases in mortality associated with renewable energy infrastructure (e.g., collisions with wind-turbines and vehicles, power pole electrocutions) could have severe consequences for population trajectories, but that site-specific conservation actions can greatly reduce the magnitude of negative impacts. Our study demonstrates the use of a flexible and expandable modeling framework to incorporate spatially dependent processes when determining relative risks of proposed management options to Golden Eagles and their habitats.
Wind power is an important renewable source of energy that has the potential to help the United States reduce its carbon emissions and contribute to global efforts aimed at combating climate change. But even “green” energy sources can produce unintended ecological consequences. In the case of wind power, a well-recognized cost of harnessing this energy source is an increase in avian mortality, experienced primarily by larger predatory birds. This study describes an initial attempt to construct a mechanistic forecasting model of wind power impacts on golden eagle populations. Our modeling approach has the potential to be used to inform site-selection decisions that seek to maximize energy capture given constraints placed upon acceptable rates of turbine-induced avian mortality.
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LABORATORY
WESTERN ECOLOGY DIVISION
ECOLOGICAL EFFECTS BRANCH