‘Predator’ wind turbines hit birds, damage ecosystem

Rodiano Bonacci
Novembre 9, 2018

The study, in Western Ghats, India, showed that by scaring away bird life, the turbines caused a "trophic cascade" through the food chain that made lizards change colour.

The areas where wind turbines are operational have fewer predatory birds (for example, Buteo, Butastur and Elanus species), which consequently, but have a higher density of lizards, such as Sarada superba. They found nearly four times more birds of prey in areas without turbines.

The study was done in the Chalkewadi plateau in Satara district in the northern Western Ghats which is the site of one of the largest and longest-running wind farms in the region. These protected areas do not have wind turbines, and were chosen for comparison.

Although previous research has shown that turbines can be deadly for birds and bats, it is the first time scientists have studied the knock-on effects for other animals.

Most wind farms in the world are located on the open plains where the birds feel at home. Not only were there more lizards around wind farms, but they also had lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone, which allowed humans to get closer to the lizards before fleeing - another important clue that the local ecosystem is experiencing less predation. Blood samples were collected from lizards picked up from both sites - areas with wind farm and area without wind farms.

"What was remarkable to us were the subtle changes in behavior, morphology, and physiology of those lizards", said Maria Thaker, assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Science's Centre for Ecological Sciences and lead study author.

Furthermore, they saw significant changes in lizard behavior and appearance, living as though they were in an essentially predator-free environment. Adding or removing a top predator has wide-scale consequences for ecosystems and our study shows that anthropogenic structures can do just that. You can further help us by making a donation.

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