Wind-energy development alters pronghorn migration at multiple scales

Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 



Migration is a critical behavioral strategy necessary for population persistence and ecosystem functioning, but migration routes have been increasingly disrupted by anthropogenic activities, including energy development. Wind energy is the world's fastest growing source of electricity and represents an important alternative to hydrocarbon extraction, but its effects on migratory species beyond birds and bats are not well understood. We evaluated the effects of wind-energy development on pronghorn migration, including behavior and habitat selection, to assess potential effects on connectivity and other functional benefits including stopovers. We monitored GPS-collared female pronghorn from 2010 to 2012 and 2018 to 2020 in south-central Wyoming, USA, an area with multiple wind-energy facilities in various stages of development and operation. Across all time periods, we collected 286 migration sequences from 117 individuals, including 121 spring migrations, 123 fall migrations, and 42 facultative winter migrations. While individuals continued to migrate through wind-energy facilities, pronghorn made important behavioral adjustments relative to turbines during migration. These included avoiding turbines when selecting stopover sites in spring and winter, selecting areas farther from turbines at a small scale in spring and winter, moving more quickly near turbines in spring (although pronghorn moved more slowly near turbines in the fall), and reducing fidelity to migration routes relative to wind turbines under construction in both spring and fall. For example, an increase in distance to turbine from 0 to 1 km translated to a 33% and 300% increase in the relative probability of selection for stopover sites in spring and winter, respectively. The behavioral adjustments pronghorn made relative to wind turbines could reduce the functional benefits of their migration, such as foraging success or the availability of specific routes, over the long term.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Wind-energy development alters pronghorn migration at multiple scales
Series title Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1002/ece3.9687
Volume 13
Issue 1
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle, Western Ecological Research Center
Description e9687, 12 p.
Country United States
State Wyoming
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