Careful siting of renewable energy development seems to play a key role in minimizing impacts to wildlife, but this requires detailed knowledge of animals’ migratory movements, habitat needs, and other life history information. To address this need, BRI established a Wildlife and Renewable Energy Program and is involved in several areas of wind power research and marine spatial planning in the eastern United States.
BRI's Wildlife and Renewable Energy Program combines the resources of other BRI programs to carry out research studies that cross species lines and geographic boundaries. Below are the types of projects we have initiated through this program.
Offshore wind energy is an important renewable natural resource. However, relatively little research has been carried out in the United States of the short and long-term ecological effects of offshore turbines on marine species and habitats. To help fill this information gap, BRI launched a Wildlife Science and Marine Wind Energy Initiative, which became the catalyst for multiple projects related to this issue, including:
The siting of marine wind energy development hinges, in part, on a better understanding of the extent of direct and indirect environmental impacts. In early 2012, BRI began its first project to establish baseline information on animal distributions and habitat use offshore. This information will be used to assess potential risks to wildlife and to attempt to minimize the effects of planned offshore development on birds, marine mammals, and sea turtles.
Projects with a focus on offshore baseline studies include:
BRI's findings from a 2010 Saw-whet Owl study indicated that coastal habitats and islands may be important stopover areas for these owls during migration. This project was the beginning of a series of coastal and offshore migration studies on a variety of migrating birds, including raptors and songbirds. Projects include:
Our Wildlife and Renewable Energy Program works collaboratively with BRI's other programs to share data and techniques to enhance our overall knowledge of wildlife and ecosystems that may be affected by development of alternative energy. Examples of these multidisciplinary projects include:
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