Wind turbines act as apex predators in local ecosystems

Mindy Sparks
November 8, 2018

The effect of wind farms on ecosystems is effectively the same as if a new predator was introduced to the area. But a new study finds that the impacts of turbines are more far-reaching than previously thought, acting nearly like a new apex predator in an ecosystem.

Wind turbines are vital for sustainable power, providing cheap electricity without producing any sort of pollution.

Most wind farms in the world are located on the open plains where the birds feel at home. The usually brilliant blue and orange colours that male lizards sport were less vibrant in individuals at wind farms: not a good sign, because colour intensities aid lizards in social communication, said study according to The Hindu report.

They found that predatory raptor birds were four times rarer in areas of plateau where wind turbines were present, a disruption that cascaded down the food chain and radically altered the density and behavior of the birds' prey. And since lizards have less fear of being preyed by birds, they are becoming less stressful. 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. So few of them were being eaten that they even lost nearly all fear of danger. With lowered anti-predator responses, the reptiles let researchers approach to within 3 m before running away (normally, they flee if intruders approach to within 15 m). The lizards, in turn, reduced the population of their own prey species, causing a dramatic change in the ecosystem. However, the assumption that wind turbines only affect flying species fails to take into account how fewer birds, who are often predators, can change an ecosystem's dynamic. It's not clear what the long-term consequences of the wind farm will be, but it will likely be bad.

"We need to be smart about how we deploy green energy solutions". After all, not using wind turbines will have an even more negative impact on the environment.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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