Wind Turbines Are Harming Birds, Study Finds

Posted: Nov 9 2018, 9:07am CST | by , Updated: Nov 9 2018, 9:09am CST, in Latest Science News


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Wind Turbines are Harming Birds, Study Finds
Credit: University of Bucharest

Wind farms act as a top predator in the food chain because they keep the raptors at bay.

Wind farms are a major source of clean renewable energy. The wind industry currently supplies around four percent of electricity demand across the globe, but it is also acting as a top “predator” in some ecosystems. A new study says that wind turbines harm predatory raptor birds and trigger a cascade of destabilizing effects on food chain.

Wind turbines with enormous, rolling blades, harness the clean power of wind and convert it into electricity. While extracting power from wind, wind turbines can also modify the local climate.

In the latest effort, researchers decided to study the effects of wind turbines on local biodiversity and looked at the species-rich ecosystems of Western Ghats, a UNESCO-listed range of mountains and forest spanning India’s west coast region. Researchers found that predatory raptor birds were four times rarer in those areas where wind turbines were present and the disruption has radically altered the density and behavior of the birds’ prey. Specifically, researchers observed an increase in the population of raptors' favorite prey, fan-throated lizards, in areas dominated by the turbines. The significant changes in the behavior and appearance of wizards also indicated that they were living in an essentially predator-free environment. Because of decrease in raptors around the turbines, the lizards had to deal with less number of predatory attacks and also showed lower levels of a stress hormone.

“What was remarkable to us were the subtle changes in behavior, morphology, and physiology of those lizards.” Lead study author Maria Thaker from Indian Institute of Science's Center for Ecological Sciences, said.

While wind is abundant and free, it generally needs considerable space to generate renewable energy. Previous studies have also shown that wind turbine blades do kill birds, especially raptors, but their contribution to total bird deaths is low compared to fossil fuel and nuclear power systems. New study, however, says that wind farms not only kill raptors but also keep them at bay. Therefore, the impact of wind farms reaches further into Earth's ecosystems than previously thought.

“They trigger changes to the balance of animals in an ecosystem as if they were top predators,” said Thaker. “They are the 'predators' of raptors – not in the sense of killing them, but by reducing the presence of raptors in those areas.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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