'Predator' wind farms upset the food chain

A fan-throated lizard

A fan-throated lizard

Wind farms now act as a top "predator" in some ecosystems, harming birds at the top of the food chain and triggering a knock-on effect often overlooked by green energy advocates, scientists said Monday.

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.

Most from the negative effects of suffer from birds of prey. With fewer predators, lizard numbers shot up to nearly three times more in wind farms.

Wind farms play an essential role in humanity's mission to transition towards a 100% renewable energy future, but although their impact on the environment is minimal compared to that of fossil fuels, wind turbines are not entirely benign. Researchers found nearly four times more predatory birds in areas without wind turbines than around wind farms.

Most wind farms in the world are located on the open plains where the birds feel at home.

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Simulating "predator attacks", humans in the study could get up to five times closer to a lizard in the wind farm zones than one living away from the turbines before the creatures fled. Blood samples were collected from lizards picked up from both sites - areas with wind farm and area without wind farms.

Maria Thaker and colleagues at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru surveyed wildlife in India's Western Ghats, where wind turbines have been functioning for the past two decades.

The ecological findings from our paper was exciting because it showed that wind farms are like top predators, and their impact can result not only in the decrease of bird activity (which was known previous), but it also indirectly increases the density of lizards, and changes the morphology, behaviour and physiology of those lizards.

"They trigger changes to the balance of animals in an ecosystem as if they were top predators", she said. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.

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