Tuesday, 23 July, 2019

Wind Turbines Are Impacting Ecology in Western Ghats

Snow is seen on the San Gorgonio Mountains behind a windmill farm in Palm Springs California Wind turbines act like 'super predators' changing ecosystems by removing birds of prey
Sandy Nunez | 08 November, 2018, 00:56

Close to 17 million hectares - an area roughly the size of Tunisia - is now used for generating wind energy worldwide, and researchers warned that developers had "greatly underestimated" the impact the technology has on wildlife.

Maria Thaker, of the Indian Institute of Science, said she conducted the research because of the effect of wind turbines on raptors.

The predatory bird species affected include Buteo, Butastur and Elanus and the density of lizard that showed an increase in numbers is Sarada superba, a fan-throated lizard endemic to the area. They are the latest top predator in our ecosystem: the wind turbine.

The change had a knock-on effect on other animals normally eaten by the birds of prey - with an overabundance of lizards in those areas. They suggested similar effects would also probably be found around British wind farms. These lizards also had lower levels of corticosterone, a stress hormone, and allowed researchers to get closer before running away than in areas without turbines.

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Wind farms are known to be harmful to birds, disrupting their migration patterns and causing above average death rates. 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.

"They are the "predators" of raptors - not in the sense of killing them, but by reducing the presence of raptors in those areas". As a result, wind farms located in areas rich in biodiversity "illustrate an unexpected conflict between the goals from the United Nations Paris Agreement for climate change mitigation and Aichi Biodiversity Targets from the Convention on Biological Diversity".

Wind farms play an essential role in humanity's mission to transition towards a 100% renewable energy future, but although their impact on the environment is minimal compared to that of fossil fuels, wind turbines are not entirely benign. If these solutions aren't enough, we might just have to live with altered ecosystems around wind farms. "Let's reduce our footprint on the planet and put turbines in places that are already disturbed in some way - on buildings for example".