An international team of researchers finds that birds of prey are 4 times worse in areas on plateau where wind turbines are present
PARIS, France – Wind farms act as a top "predator" in some ecosystems, damaging birds at the top of the food chain and triggering a knock-on effect overlooked by green energy advocates, researchers said Monday, November 5th.
Wind is the fastest growing renewable energy sector, delivering around 4% of global demand for electricity.
Nearly 17 million hectares – an area that is roughly the size of Tunisia – is currently being used to generate wind energy all over the world, and researchers warned that developers had "strongly underestimated" what impact the technology has on wildlife.
In new research, an international team of researchers studied the effects of wind turbine utilization in Western Ghats, a UNESCO-listed mountain and forest range that spans the west coast of India and a global biodiversity hotspot.
They discovered that birds of prey were 4 times rare in areas on plateau where wind turbines were present, a disruption that cascaded into the food chain and radically altered density and behavior of the birds' byte.
In particular, the team saw an explosion in the raptors favorite meal, fan-throated lizards, in areas dominated by turbines.
In addition, they saw significant changes in the behavior and appearance of the fate, alive as they were in a substantial predator-free environment.
"What was remarkable to us was the subtle changes in behavior, morphology and physiology of these lizards," told Maria Thaker, adjunct professor at the Indian Science Center for Ecological Sciences and Head of Studies, to Agence France Presse.
When the raptors' levels fell around the turbines, they also had the amount of rov attacks that the lizards were dealing with.
As a result, the team found that lizards living in and around wind farms had reduced their vigilance to potential danger.
Simulate "predatory attacks", people in the study can get up to 5 times closer to a lizard in wind power zones than one who lives from the turbines before the creatures flew.
"Be smart with green energy"
After testing, the lizards near the windmills were shown to have lower levels of stress hormone, something that must have occurred during the two decades since wind farms were built in Western Ghats.
Wind farms are known to be harmful to birds, disturb their migration patterns and cause above average deaths.
Thaker said that her research, published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, showed that wind farms replicated the role of the chief predator in the food chain by keeping the raptors in the lake.
"They trigger changes in animal balance in an ecosystem as if they were the best predators," she said.
"They are the predators of the predators – not in the sense that they kill them, but by reducing the predators' presence in these areas. "
Because the artificial carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, Thaker said that wind energy was crucial for mitigating the effects of climate change.
However, with evidence that the impact of wind farms reaches further in the Earth's ecosystem than previously thought, she urged more attention to the environmental impact of the vital green energy source.
"It took decades for researchers to realize that wind turbines affected animals flying," said Thaker.
"We must be wise about how we use green energy solutions. Let's reduce our footprint on the planet and put turbines in places that are already disturbed in some way – for example, on buildings." – Rappler.com
Wind turbine image from Shutterstock