Wind farms are a growing threat to predatory birds and balance in ecosystem: Study

Wind projects, currently exempt from Impact Assessments, need to consider ecological outcome: Study.

There’s a predator lurking in Maharashtra’s backyard — towering 20-feet high, armed with blades, and has brought down the number of birds of prey, according to a new study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution on 5 November.

These predators are none other than Wind Farms. According to the study, they are the top predators in certain ecosystems and trigger a series of knock-on consequences, including a lower number of predatory animals, an issue with its own set of consequences.

Wind farms, which now make up 4 percent of the global renewables sector, are harming wildlife and throwing the ecosystem out of balance, a study has found.

Raptors, like the Golden Eagle shown, are among the birds most threatened by wind farm development. Image courtesy: ABC Birds

Raptors, like the Golden Eagle shown, are among the birds most threatened by wind farm development. Image courtesy: ABC Birds

Green advocates overlook these consequences of wind farms when large stretches of land are cleared to make way for wind turbines. The total area of land that has been cleared to make room for wind farms is above 100,000 square kilometres in size.

Scientists have looked at the impact of wind turbines in the Western Ghats, a range of mountains listed by UNESCO as a biodiversity hotspot.

They discovered that areas with wind farms had fewer predatory bird species. The effects of this cause a disturbance all the way down the food chain. Researchers found that the effects can be seen in the hunted animal’s appearance, even in its behaviour.

In the Western Ghats, the density of predatory raptor birds had come down after Maharashtra’s Chalkewadi plateau was converted into a wind farm 20 years ago.

Fan-throated lizards are larger in number and weaker in health since the wind farms have lowered their predator numbers by much. Image courtesy: YouTube/NatGeo

Fan-throated lizards are larger in number and weaker in health since the wind farms have lowered their predator numbers by much. Image courtesy: YouTube/NatGeo

The study found that in Chalkewadi, the bird’s prey — Fan-throated lizards — were in much larger numbers in and around wind farms, and also showed a marked change in behaviour.

“They were bolder and less risk-averse,” Dr Maria Thaker, a study author from Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, told the Hindu.

However, the health of these lizards was markedly different: the colourful spots on the reptile skin, leaner bodies. Considering lizards use the colour intensities to communicate with each other, it could likely have other impacts on a societal level too, the study points out.

This proves, in a first, that wind power projects, which are exempt from the Impact Assessments on the Environment, do have consequences that are complex.

Loading...




Top Stories


also see

science