SMALL wind turbines can halve bat activity in the immediate vicinity of properties, according to new research.

Academics from Stirling University looked at the small wind turbines, which are becoming an increasingly popular means of power generation at individual homes.

The research, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, involved halting microturbine movement at 20 sites across the UK and examining the effect on bird and bat activity.

The results revealed bird activity was not significantly affected but bat activity was 54% lower in close proximity to operating turbines compared to those which were stopped.

Dr Kirsty Park, senior lecturer in Ecology at Stirling who led the research team, said: "Reducing our carbon footprint is important, but we also need to understand the implications of renewable energy technologies for wildlife conservation.

"Based on our results, we recommend turbines are sited at least 20 metres away from potentially valuable bat habitat."

The research, to be published in the American journal PLoS ONE, was conducted by Dr Jeroen Minderman from the University's School of Natural Sciences.

Mr Minderman said: "Previous studies have shown birds and bats can be killed by colliding with large turbine blades or wildlife may avoid the surrounding environment, leading to effective habitat loss.

"To date, studies have focused solely on large-scale wind farms."