31 Oct 2017 | BirdLife
A new study has revealed which bird and bat species are most at risk of collision with wind turbines, with birds of prey and migratory birds coming top of the list. This research is the first to take a global view of the problem, and pinpoints some possible solutions to allow birds, bats and wind turbines to share the skies with less conflict.
Dr Chris Thaxter of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) presses the importance of finding the “delicate balance between a greener future and healthy biodiversity.”
A main concern with wind farm development is the risk of birds and bats colliding with turbines; the giant revolving blades not only capture the power of the wind, but can also catch out unsuspecting wildlife, leading to fatal collisions. This problem has been well documented in Europe and North America, however until now much less was known about the situation in other parts of the world where wind power is rapidly expanding.
The high vulnerability of birds of prey is especially problematic as many such species are slow to reproduce, meaning that the loss of breeding adults in fatal collisions has a much greater effect on the population than on many other species. Added to this, many birds of prey are already globally threatened, so windfarms in the habitats of these birds have the potential to worsen an already drastic situation for the survival of these species.
Migratory birds were also found to be highly exposed to the risk of collision, especially where wind farms are placed in important flyways; coastal and migratory pathways have the greatest numbers of vulnerable bird species.
For bats, the highest numbers of collisions were predicted in North America, with several species such as the Hoary Bat Lasiurus cinereus and Eastern Red Bat Lasiurus borealis particularly vulnerable.
Alongside highlighting the importance of choosing the right location for windfarms (such as avoiding important migration routes), the paper suggests that building fewer, larger turbines can help to reduce the risk of fatal collisions.
This new study provides essential information to help ensure that wind energy development takes account of potential impacts on birds and bats, and that turbines are not placed in the most sensitive locations.“