Wind farms kill birds

Federico Mansilla
Noviembre 8, 2018

Now, a new study done in the Western Ghats has found that wind farms in biodiversity-rich areas can have deeper ecological consequences beyond already known impacts. But a new study finds that the impacts of turbines are more far-reaching than previously thought, acting nearly like a new apex predator in an ecosystem.

In particular, the team observed an explosion in the raptors' favorite meal - fan-throated lizards - in areas dominated by the turbines. These protected areas do not have wind turbines, and were chosen for comparison.

In new research, an worldwide team of scientists studied the effects of wind turbine use in the Western Ghats, a UNESCO-listed range of mountains and forest spanning India's west coast region and a global "hotspot" of biodiversity. We also found strong trait-mediated effects of predator release: "lizards at sites with wind turbine not only had lower stress-induced corticosterone levels and anti-predator behavioural responses, but they also had lower body condition and intensity of sexual ornamentation", wrote the authors in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. A typical wind farm can kill thousands of birds every year, including raptors like falcons and eagles. They found nearly four times more birds of prey in areas without turbines. Blood samples were collected from lizards picked up from both sites - areas with wind farm and area without wind farms.

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Furthermore, they saw significant changes in lizard behavior and appearance, living as though they were in an essentially predator-free environment. The lizards picked up in the wind farm region had lower levels of the stress hormone and allowed humans to get closer before fleeing, indicating that they experience less predation.

Maria Thaker and colleagues at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru surveyed wildlife in India's Western Ghats, where wind turbines have been functioning for the past two decades. However, the assumption that wind turbines only affect flying species fails to take into account how fewer birds, who are often predators, can change an ecosystem's dynamic. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.

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