‘Predator’ wind turbines hit birds, damage ecosystem

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Wind turbines function like "top predators" and are changing ecosystems by deposing birds of prey at the top of the food chain, a study found.

In particular, the team observed an explosion in the raptors' favorite meal - fan-throated lizards - in areas dominated by the turbines. To such conclusions researchers in India who studied the populations of birds and lizards in the three districts of the Western Ghats, where the installed wind generators. According to a new study, wind turbines have cascading effects on the food chain and local ecosystems, as if they were the new apex predators in the area.

'We find wind farms reduce the abundance and activity of predatory birds - for example buzzards, hawks and kites - which consequently increases the density of lizards. "These reptiles had reduced levels of corticosterone - the hormone of stress", says Maria Tucker, co-author of the study. This, researchers said, can be attributed to there being fewer predatory bird attacks near wind farms. Blood samples were collected from lizards picked up from both sites - areas with wind farm and area without wind farms.

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Furthermore, they saw significant changes in lizard behavior and appearance, living as though they were in an essentially predator-free environment.

Wind farms arrived in Chalkewadi nearly 20 years ago and Professor Maria Thaker (Bengaluru's Indian Institute of Science) and her team studied their impact on the local ecosystem between 2012 and 2014, said a report in The Hindu.

"Our central discovery is that wind turbines can act as top predators, by reducing the density and activity of birds, their prey are now released from the typical level of predation". Adding or removing a top predator has wide-scale consequences for ecosystems and our study shows that anthropogenic structures can do just that. 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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