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Tradeoffs with utility-scale solar development and ungulates on western rangelands

Citation

Sawyer, Hall (2021), Tradeoffs with utility-scale solar development and ungulates on western rangelands, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.djh9w0w14

Abstract

Utility scale solar energy (USSE) has become an efficient and cost-effective form of renewable energy, with an expanding footprint into rangelands that provide important habitat for many ungulate populations. Using GPS data collected before and after construction, we documented the potential impacts of USSE on pronghorn, including direct habitat loss, indirect habitat loss, and barrier effects to both resident and migratory population segments. Our case study highlights the challenges that USSE poses to ungulate conservation, including 1) impermeable security fencing that removes habitat and reduces connectivity, and 2) the lack of guidelines for minimizing solar impacts to ungulates. We encourage agencies and industry to work towards a unified siting process and develop ungulate-specific best management practices to minimize habitat loss and retain landscape connectivity. Ungulate biodiversity and ecosystem services (e.g., long-distance migrations) in arid rangelands are important considerations when balancing the global benefits of renewable energy with local wildlife impacts.

Methods

Data were collected from pronghorn equipped with GPS-collars that collected locations every 2 hours.

Usage Notes

Shapefiles are associated with Figures 1, 2, and 3 from the manuscript. Figure 1 includes pre- and post-construction GPS points and utilization distributions. Figure 2 includes line files of migratory pronghorn from study area. And Figure 3 includes line files of migratory pronghorn from nearby population. See ReadMe file for details.