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24 May 2023
Recently, ECOSA looked into the recent research undertaken on the impacts of terrestrial wind turbines on bats and birds.
A collaborative study between Nature Scot, Natural England and the Bat Conservation Trust (as well as other parties) has put together the following potential impacts of wind turbines on bats:
- Collision mortality, barotrauma and other injuries (although it is important to consider these in the context of other forms of anthropogenic mortality);
- Loss or damage to commuting and foraging habitat, (wind farms may form barriers to commuting or seasonal movements, and can result in severance of foraging habitat);
- Loss of, or damage to, roosts; and
- Displacement of individuals or populations (due to wind farm construction or because bats avoid the wind farm area).
The study identifies Nathusius's pipistrelle, noctule, Leisler's and barbastelle as the species most vulnerable to death or injury caused by wind turbines in the UK based on these species' collision risk and rarity. Other studies show that for bats, the risk of collision with wind turbines increases with the number of turbines present and the length of rotor blades. Wind turbine curtailment has been shown to be an effective method for reducing the fatality rates of bats.
Research into the potential impacts of wind turbines on birds have concluded the following:
- Collision mortality and other injuries to birds can occur through birds colliding with the rotor blades and with the turbine poles, large soaring raptors are particularly vulnerable to collision with turbines;
- Raptors exhibiting behaviours that decrease flight vigilance, such as foraging or tortuous flight are more prone to collision; and
- Turbines and rotors may cause functional habitat loss for soaring birds.
Raptors are particularly vulnerable to fatality due to collision with wind turbines, even at low numbers this can have a detrimental effect as raptors are slow to mature and have low reproduction rates. The cumulative effects of multiple wind farms needs to be taken into account for regional or national populations of species of conservation concern. Applying contrasting paint to the rotor blades of turbines reduces fatality rates for birds