Potential influence of high-elevation wind farms on carnivore mobility
Wind power development is regarded as a clean energy source. Efforts to mitigate climate change, however, may degrade habitat and compromise wildlife. During winter 2011–2012, we examined the potential influence of a wind farm on a community of carnivores in the New England-Acadian Forest, northern New Hampshire, United States, with a focus on American martens (Martes americana), a mid- to late-successional forest species adapted for snow. We counted marten, red fox (Vulpes fulva), and coyote (Canis latrans) tracks and measured snowpack along roads, and snowmobile and hiking trails to determine the relative influence of wind farms on space use for each species. We observed all species at high-elevations (>823 m), although use frequency varied by road or trail type. As expected, we detected martens most often at high elevations along hiking trails and least often along wind farm roads. We observed the opposite pattern for red foxes and coyotes. Additionally, there was a higher probability of observing canids when snow depth increased and a lower probability when penetrability increased. Although our results indicate spatial partitioning, the edge habitat and compacted snow created by wind farm roads increased access for canids to high-elevation forest. In addition to habitat loss and fragmentation, these conditions may increase competition for martens and lower population viability. Future wind development should minimize disturbance of rare habitats, especially those considered climate refugia.