Energy production with wind turbines is increasing, because this form of energy production is CO2 neutral and renewable, and because wind power is subsidised in many countries. However, wind turbines are not without impact on biodiversity, rather, they can affect bird and bat populations through collision-induced mortality. It is relatively well studied how wind turbine architecture or the surrounding habitat affect the collision risk of birds and bats. It is much less well understood how losses due to collisions affect bird and bat populations. Moreover, it is currently unknown how the spatial configuration of wind turbines in the landscape affects populations. I addressed these two questions using an individual-based simulation model inspired by the Swiss red kite Milvus milvus population. This species is a frequent collision victim at turbines and one of Europe’s sole endemic species. I predicted the fate of populations in relation to the number and spatial configuration of wind turbines. I found that population growth rates declined progressively with an increasing number of wind turbines. These negative effects can be weakened if wind turbines are aggregated in power plants. Quantitatively the results strongly depended on the parametric form of the relationship between collision risk and the distance between wind turbines and kite nest location. Unfortunately, empirical knowledge about this relationship is scarce. As the effect of wind turbines depends on their total number and their spatial configuration within the area inhabited by a raptor population, I emphasise the importance of making environmental impact assessments not on a case-by-case basis but rather for an entire region with all its wind power plants, which collectively exert an impact on a raptor population. This must include the impact of extant as well as planned wind turbines in the same region in order to be biologically meaningful.
Spatial Distribution of Wind Turbines is Crucial for the Survival of Red Kite Populations
Title: Spatial Distribution of Wind Turbines is Crucial for the Survival of Red Kite Populations
October 01, 2012
Journal: Biological Conservation
Schaub, M. (2012). Spatial Distribution of Wind Turbines is Crucial for the Survival of Red Kite Populations. Biological Conservation, 155, 111-118.