Dissertation defence (Biology): MSc Simon Gaultier


9.6.2023 at 12.00 - 16.00
MSc Simon Gaultier defends his dissertation in Biology entitled “Impacts of human activities on bats in the boreal forest” at the University of Turku on 9 June 2023 at 12.00pm (University of Turku, Natura, lecture hall X, Turku).

The audience can participate in the defence also through remote connection: https://echo360.org.uk/section/9fb398c2-ea72-485d-910c-d35ba0528ce4/public (copy the link to the browser).

Opponent: Professor Christian Voigt (Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research)
Custos: Professor Jon Brommer, University of Turku

Digital copy of the thesis at UTUPub: https://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-29-9314-7


Summary of the Doctoral Dissertation:

Human activities such as wind power development and artificial lighting can affect bats negatively. Bats can get killed by wind turbines, or avoid certain areas because it is lit at night. These impacts can have consequences on the long-term that can lead to the disappeareance of bats in certain areas or even at a larger scale.

The development of wind turbines and the use of artificial lighting have been increasing a lot these past years, with little to no consideration for bats. Specifically in Finland, bats in forest have been particularly affected as most wind turbines are built there. However, the boreal forest is of great importance for Finnish bats, especially during the summer the permanent twilight lead most bats to the shadows of forest.

For these reasons, but also because there is no studies on the topic in Finland, I chose to investigate the impacts of wind power and artificial lighting on bats in the boreal forest. Using acoustic recorders located around several wind farms, I observed that bats were more present when getting away from wind turbines, at around 800 and 1.000 m for the northern bat and the Myotis bats, respectively. This means than the area around each turbines is avoided by bats, so it cannot be used for hunting, for example. Building wind turbines in the forest means felling numerous trees and building roads, big changes that could affect bats and explain the avoidance of wind turbines.

When investigating light pollution, I used flood lights set up in the forest and recorded bat presence around them. I compared it with the bat presence in dark areas, showing that bats avoided lit areas, either because they dont like light (for Myotis species) or because the lights I used were not attracting insects that bats feed on (for the northern bat).

In this thesis, I showed that wind power and light pollution have negative impacts on the presence of bats in Finland, for both Myotis species and the northern bat. In certain areas, the existence of wind turbines or artificial lighting will decrease the presence of these bats. When looking at the cumulative impacts of all wind turbines and artificial lighting in Finland, but also other sources of disturbance such as roads or power lines, we could see a considerable part of the country’s total area being affected, i.e., being avoided by bats.

Therefore, I recommend better consideration of bats in wind power projects and in the use of artificial lighting, so that impacts on them can be avoided or reduced. More globally, I recommend that other impacts of wind power on bats – including fatalities - in the country to be investigated, and the use of artificial lighting to be reevaluated, as renewable energy and energy sobriety are both key components for our transition to sustainability.