Wind energy generation holds the potential to adversely affect wildlife populations. Species-wide effects are difficult to study and few, if any, studies examine effects of wind energy generation on any species across its entire range. One species that may be affected by wind energy generation is the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), which is found in the eastern and midwestern United States. In addition to mortality from wind energy generation, the species also faces range-wide threats from the emerging infectious fungal disease, white-nose syndrome (WNS). White-nose syndrome, caused by Pseudogymnoascus destructans, disturbs hibernating bats leading to high levels of mortality. We used a spatially explicit full-annual-cycle model to investigate how wind turbine mortality and WNS may singly and then together affect population dynamics of this species. In the simulation, wind turbine mortality impacted the metapopulation dynamics of the species by causing extirpation of some of the smaller winter colonies.
In general, effects of wind turbines were localized and focused on specific spatial subpopulations. Conversely, WNS had a depressive effect on the species across its range. Wind turbine mortality interacted with WNS and together these stressors had a larger impact than would be expected from either alone, principally because these stressors together act to reduce species abundance across the spectrum of population sizes. Our findings illustrate the importance of not only prioritizing the protection of large winter colonies as is currently done, but also of protecting metapopulation dynamics and migratory connectivity.