Wind Farms Can Act Like Apex Predators in Ecosystems, Study Finds

A fan-throated lizard

A fan-throated lizard

Wind turbines act like "super predators" changing ecosystems by removing birds of prey from the top of the food chain, a new study has found.

In particular, the team observed an explosion in the raptors' favorite meal - fan-throated lizards - in areas dominated by the turbines.

Most from the negative effects of suffer from birds of prey.

The study was done in the Chalkewadi plateau in Satara district in the northern Western Ghats which is the site of one of the largest and longest-running wind farms in the region.

Ornithologists already named wind turbines "predators of our time". Researchers found nearly four times more predatory birds in areas without wind turbines than around wind farms. They suggested similar effects would also probably be found around British wind farms. 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. "These reptiles had reduced levels of corticosterone - the hormone of stress", says Maria Tucker, co-author of the study. Blood samples were collected from lizards picked up from both sites - areas with wind farm and area without wind farms.

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.

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.

As the levels of raptors fell around the turbines, so too did the rate of predatory attacks the lizards had to deal with.

"They trigger changes to the balance of animals in an ecosystem as if they were top predators", she said. You can further help us by making a donation.

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