Ecological Impacts

Habitat Connectivity
Regardless of whether habitat remains intact within the interior of a fence surrounding a solar facility, this barrier essentially removes the habitat for species that cannot penetrate the fencing. For species with limited range, loss of habitat can directly affect species survival; if suitable habitat does not exist outside facility fencing, or is not large enough to support a population, limited resources such as food or cover may result in direct mortality.

Species with higher mobility often rely on habitat patches to meet resource needs as they move throughout their range.1 While these species may be able to survive by traveling farther distances to access food resources, fencing that directly removes a vital habitat patch could severely limit their ability to survive. If the facility creates a large enough gap between other habitat patches, species may lose access to a much larger habitat area. Wildlife species most vulnerable to habitat loss from solar development are those reliant on plant assemblages found only in flat, lower elevation areas of the California desert, since these areas are most preferable for developers.

Not only does fencing remove habitat within its boundaries, it can also act as a barrier, restricting or completely blocking movement of species. Even if a population will not be affected by loss of habitat within a facility’s fenced area, the fencing itself may be difficult to navigate around. If migration corridors are blocked, the viability of a species’ population may be compromised as a result of gene- flow restriction.

1 Cameron W. Barrows and M.F. Allen, “Conservation Implications of Fragmentation in Deserts,” in The Mojave Desert: Ecosystem Processes and Sustainability, eds. R.H. Webb and others (Reno: The University of Nevada Press, 2009), 168-195.