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Scientific Literature Review Finds Opportunities for More Research on Solar Energy Development and Impacts to Wildlife



Scientific Literature Review Finds Opportunities for More Research on Solar Energy Development and Impacts to Wildlife

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.  – More peer-reviewed scientific studies of the effects on wildlife of large-scale solar energy developments and operations are needed to adequately assess their impact, especially in the desert Southwest, according to a scientific literature review conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and published in the journal BioScience

In their literature review, the authors of the paper, USGS scientist Jeffrey Lovich and Maryville College scientist Joshua Ennen, found that out of all the scientific papers they examined, going back well before  the 1980s, only one peer-reviewed study addressed the direct impacts of large-scale solar energy development and operations on any kind of wildlife. Peer-reviewed studies are those that have been reviewed by experts in the same field of study and are then published in scientific journals.  

One reason why there are few peer-reviewed studies is that the interest in developing alternative energy has grown exponentially in recent years and science has to “catch up.” Opportunities for hypothesis-driven research on solar energy facilities of this scale, particularly research looking at baseline conditions before development, impacts of operation, or conditions after development, have been limited.   

The authors pointed out that a great deal of information exists in environmental compliance documents and other unpublished, non-peer-reviewed literature sources, but that more peer-reviewed studies are greatly needed. 

“The dearth of peer-reviewed studies, as shown by the USGS review, can happen whenever society rapidly embarks on major undertakings, such as developing large-scale solar projects,” explained USGS director Marcia McNutt. “Our goal is to raise the visibility and accessibility of information of impacts of solar energy impacts on wildlife as these important projects move forward.”

According to Lovich and Ennen, these studies are particularly important in sensitive habitats such as the desert Southwest with its wildlife diversity and fragile arid desert lands. “For example,” said Lovich, “the desert tortoise is an ecological engineer whose burrows provide much-needed shelter for many other desert species.  Yet large areas of habitat occupied by Agassiz’s desert tortoise and some other at-risk species have potential for large-scale solar-energy developments.”

The review paper findings can help the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies charged with solar siting, development, and operational responsibilities to identify, prioritize, and resolve information gaps relative to development and operational impacts to wildlife, and direct monitoring efforts. 

The paper does not contain any new scientific findings; rather, it examined peer-reviewed, already published articles. This is a common way to assess the state of published knowledge on a topic, identify information and research gaps, and focus future projects.  

The paper, Wildlife conservation and solar energy development in the desert Southwest, is authored by Jeffrey E. Lovich and Joshua R. Ennen.

USGS Newsroom



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Parameter Value Description
Magnitude mb The magnitude for the event.
Longitude ° East Decimal degrees longitude. Negative values for western longitudes.
Latitude ° North Decimal degrees latitude. Negative values for southern latitudes.
Depth km Depth of the event in kilometers.
Place Textual description of named geographic region near to the event. This may be a city name, or a Flinn-Engdahl Region name.
Time 1970-01-01 00:00:00 Time when the event occurred. UTC/GMT
Updated 1970-01-01 00:00:00 Time when the event was most recently updated. UTC/GMT
Timezone offset Timezone offset from UTC in minutes at the event epicenter.
Felt The total number of felt reports
CDI The maximum reported intensity for the event.
MMI The maximum estimated instrumental intensity for the event.
Alert Level The alert level from the PAGER earthquake impact scale. Green, Yellow, Orange or Red.
Review Status Indicates whether the event has been reviewed by a human.
Tsunami This flag is set to "1" for large events in oceanic regions and "0" otherwise. The existence or value of this flag does not indicate if a tsunami actually did or will exist.
SIG A number describing how significant the event is. Larger numbers indicate a more significant event.
Network The ID of a data contributor. Identifies the network considered to be the preferred source of information for this event.
Sources A comma-separated list of network contributors.
Number of Stations Used The total number of Number of seismic stations which reported P- and S-arrival times for this earthquake.
Horizontal Distance Horizontal distance from the epicenter to the nearest station (in degrees).
Root Mean Square sec The root-mean-square (RMS) travel time residual, in sec, using all weights.
Azimuthal Gap The largest azimuthal gap between azimuthally adjacent stations (in degrees).
Magnitude Type The method or algorithm used to calculate the preferred magnitude for the event.
Event Type Type of seismic event.
Event ID Id of event.
Event Code An identifying code assigned by, and unique from, the corresponding source for the event.
Event IDS A comma-separated list of event ids that are associated to an event.

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