Wind turbines cause functional habitat loss for migratory soaring birds

Comparison between soaring suitability and the use by black kites of the areas close to wind turbines (up to 674 m of distance) and far from wind turbines (located at 1 to 2 km distance from the closest turbine). Bird use corresponds to the UD (Utilization Distribution) obtained directly from the dBBMM, and the soaring suitability is the UD predicted from a GLS fitted with orographic and thermal uplift velocities as predictors and the dBBMM UD as response variable (see methods for further details).

Authors: Ana Teresa Marques 1,2,3, Carlos David Santos 4,5, Frank Hanssen 6, Antonio-Román Muñoz 7, Alejandro Onrubia 8, Martin Wikelski 4,9, Francisco Moreira 3,10, Jorge Manuel Palmeirim 1, João Paulo Silva 1, 3,10

Publication: Journal of Animal Ecology

Publication Link: https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12961

Access: Subscription

Affiliations:

1 Centro de Ecologia, Evolução e Alterações Ambientais, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Edifício C2, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal

2 Centro de Ecologia Aplicada “Professor Baeta Neves” (CEABN), InBio, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade de Lisboa, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisboa, Portugal

3 REN Biodiversity Chair, CIBIO/InBio, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Laboratório Associado, Universidade do Porto, Campus Agrário de Vairão, 4485-661 Vairão, Portugal

4 Department of Migration and Immuno-ecology, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Am Obstberg 1, 78315 Radolfzell, Germany

5 Núcleo de Teoria e Pesquisa do Comportamento, Universidade Federal do Pará, Rua Augusto Correa 01, Guamá, 66075-110 Belém, Brazil

6 Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Box 5685 Sluppen, N-7485 Trondheim, Norway

7 Biogeography, Diversity and Conservation Research Team, Departamento de Biología Animal, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Málaga, Spain

8 Fundación Migres (CIMA), Ctra. N-340, Km.85, Tarifa, 11380 Cádiz, Spain

9 Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, Universitätsstr. 10, 78464 Konstanz, Germany

10 CIBIO/InBio, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Laboratório Associado, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade de Lisboa, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisbon, Portugal

Corresponding Author: Ana Teresa Marques (ateresamarques@gmail.com, +351 962483032). Centro de Ecologia, Evolução e Alterações Ambientais, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Edifício C2, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal

Funding: This research was funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology through Doctoral grant to A.T.M.(SFRH/BD/100147/2014), Postdoctoral grants to C.D.S. and J.P.S. (SFRH/BPD/64786/2009 and SFRH/BPD/111084/2015) and a grant to F.M. (IF/01053/2015), the Research Council of Norway through the Research and Development Project INTACT (Innovative Mitigation Tools for Avian Conflicts with wind Turbines, Grant 226241), and by the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology.

Keywords: Aerial habitat; avoidance behaviour; migration; orographic uplift; raptor; thermal uplift; wind farms

Abstract:

1.Wind energy production has expanded to meet climate change mitigation goals, but negative impacts of wind turbines have been reported on wildlife. Soaring birds are among the most affected groups with alarming fatality rates by collision with wind turbines and an escalating occupation of their migratory corridors. These birds have been described as changing their flight trajectories to avoid wind turbines, but this behaviour may lead to functional habitat loss, as suitable soaring areas in the proximity of wind turbines will likely be underused.

2.We modelled the displacement effect of wind turbines on black kites (Milvus migrans) tracked by GPS. We also evaluated the impact of this effect at the scale of the landscape by estimating how much suitable soaring area was lost to wind turbines.

3.We used state‐of‐art tracking devices to monitor the movements of 130 black kites in an area populated by wind turbines, at the migratory bottleneck of the Strait of Gibraltar. Landscape use by birds was mapped from GPS data using dynamic Brownian bridge movement models and generalized additive mixed modelling was used to estimate the effect of wind turbine proximity on bird use while accounting for orographic and thermal uplift availability.

4.We found that areas up to approximately 674 m away from the turbines were less used than expected given their uplift potential. Within that distance threshold, bird use decreased with the proximity to wind turbines. We estimated that the footprint of wind turbines affected 3‐14% of the areas suitable for soaring in our study area.

5.We present evidence that the impacts of wind energy industry on soaring birds are greater than previously acknowledged. In addition to the commonly reported fatalities, the avoidance of turbines by soaring birds causes habitat losses in their movement corridors. Authorities should recognize this further impact of wind energy production and establish new regulations that protect soaring habitat. We also showed that soaring habitat for birds can be modelled at a fine scale using publicly available data. Such an approach can be used to plan low‐impact placement of turbines in new wind energy developments.

Supplementary Material: The tracking data used in this study is available at Movebank Data Repository http://doi.org/10.5441/001/1.q23p1t84 (Marques 2019).

Intrusive Methodologies: 130 birds were captured in walk-in baited traps. They were fitted with GPS-GSM data loggers attached as backpacks using Teflon ribbon. A weak link was built into each harness to allow the loggers to automatically detach.

Citizen Science: None

Conservation: Not discussed but recognized as having important implications for wind farm development.

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