F. Roscioni • D. Russo • M. Di Febbraro • L. Frate • M. L. Carranza • A. Loy
Abstract Wind farms are steadily growing across Europe, with potentially detrimental effects on wildlife. Indeed, cumulative impacts in addition to local effects should be considered when planning wind farm development at a regional scale, and mapping the potential risk to bats at this scale would help in the large-scale planning of wind turbines and focus field surveys on vulnerable areas. Although modelling offers a powerful approach to tackle this goal, its application has been thus far neglected. We developed a simple regional-scale analysis in an area of central Italy (Molise region) that is undergoing considerable wind farm development. We implemented species distribution models (SDMs) for two bat species vulnerable to wind farm impact, Nyctalus leisleri and Pipistrellus pipistrellus. We developed risk maps by overlaying SDMs for the two species with turbine locations, assessed the lteration of the landscape patterns of foraging habitat patches determined by the wind turbines, and identified highly vulnerable areas where wind farm construction would be particularly risky. SDMs were statistically robust (AUC ≥ 0.8 for both species) and revealed that 41 % of the region offers suitable foraging habitat for both species. These areas host over 50 % of the existing or planned wind farms, with 21 % of the turbines located within 150 m of forest edges, suggesting an increase in fatality risk. The alterations in suitable foraging patches consisted of a 7.7 % increase in the number of patches, a 10.7 % increase in the shape index, and a 8.1 % decrease in the mean patch area. The region’s western portion, which is most suitable to both species, requires careful consideration with regard to future wind farm planning.