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Hotspots identified in Europe: where birds often become victims of wind turbines

Hotspots identified in Europe: where birds often become victims of wind turbines

Hotspots identified in Europe
Where birds often become victims of wind turbines

In the future, renewable energies such as wind and sun will be used more and more because they are above all one thing: environmentally friendly. However, wind turbines and associated power lines become a hazard in certain locations. Exactly where, clarifies an investigation.

An extensive study identifies several regions in Europe where birds are at particular risk from wind turbines and power lines. In addition to southern Spain and parts of the French Mediterranean coast, these danger hotspots also include the German Baltic Sea coast. in it “Journal of Applied Ecology” calls it The team of more than 50 researchers identifies particularly threatened bird species and recommends specific measures to protect the animals.

Switching to renewable energy is intended to curb climate change and is also being vigorously promoted by the federal government. In Europe, power from onshore wind turbines should rise from around 169 gigawatts in 2018 to 760 gigawatts in 2050, the team writes. The pipe network must also be expanded accordingly. North Africa and the Middle East, two important regions for migratory birds, also want to focus more on renewable energy.

“If poorly planned or placed, wind farms and power lines can increase the mortality of vulnerable birds,” write Jethro Gauld’s team at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, which includes researchers from 15 countries, including several from Germany. As examples of vulnerable birds, they cite large waterfowl, seagulls, storks and ibis, as well as owls, vultures and other birds of prey.

Comparison with GPS data

In the large-scale project, more than 50 researchers used GPS data from almost 1,500 birds of 27 species, most of them large. They compared this information with wind farms and power lines in and around Europe, including North Africa and the Middle East. They paid particular attention to the flight altitudes of the respective species: flight altitudes of 10 to 60 meters were considered threatened by power lines and 15 to 135 meters by wind turbines.

Hazard hotspots were mainly along important migratory bird routes and in breeding areas: In addition to the German Baltic Sea coast, the team explicitly names the western Mediterranean coast of France, southern Spain, including the Strait of Gibraltar and eastern Romania. The Bosphorus, Sinai and the Moroccan Mediterranean coast are also considered dangerous regions for birds.

According to this, the following five bird species are most at risk from power lines: White Storks (ciconia ciconia), spatula (Platalea leucorodia), whooper swans (cygnus cygnus), Royal Owl (bubo bubo) and Iberian eagle (Aquila Adalberti). Apart from eagle owls, swans and spoonbills, wind turbines mainly threaten cranes (Greetings) and white-fronted geese (anser albifrons).

With regard to both hotspots and endangered species, the researchers explicitly emphasize that their assessment is highly dependent on the number of wind turbines and the data available. This mainly applies to Germany, for which there was a lot of GPS data and also a relatively high density of wind turbines.

be considerate of birds

In general, such systems should be minimized at identified crash hotspots or, if absolutely necessary, protected by special measures. In the case of power lines, for example, this includes electrical cables being more conspicuously marked. Wind turbine rotor blades could also be better identified, and such systems could also be shut down or throttled at times when birds are in high flight, for example during bird migration. In addition, wind turbines can be equipped with cameras or radars so that they automatically turn off when birds approach.

The researchers complain that wind turbine risk assessments are often only carried out after the respective location has been selected, as the operator is primarily concerned with purely economic aspects. “We know from previous studies that there are far more suitable locations for wind turbines than we need to achieve our 2050 energy goals,” Gauld is quoted as saying in a university statement of him. “If we can improve risk assessment for biodiversity, including bird strikes, early in the planning process, we will limit the impact of these developments on wildlife and still achieve our climate goals.”

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