Wind farm predator effect hits ecosystems

A fan-throated lizard

A fan-throated lizard

They found that predatory raptor birds were four times rarer in areas of plateau where wind turbines were present, a disruption that cascaded down the food chain and radically altered the density and behavior of the birds' prey. Now, a new study done in the Western Ghats has found that wind farms in biodiversity-rich areas can have deeper ecological consequences beyond already known impacts.

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. They kept dying to the turbines, which is not great for the raptors but good news for fan-throated lizards, the raptors' prey.

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. Researchers found nearly four times more predatory birds in areas without wind turbines than around wind farms. A typical wind farm can kill thousands of birds every year, including raptors like falcons and eagles. Blood samples were collected from lizards picked up from both sites - areas with wind farm and area without wind farms. These lizards also had lower levels of corticosterone, a stress hormone, and allowed researchers to get closer before running away than in areas without turbines.

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.

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

If there's one thing humans have learned about ecology, it's that even small changes can completely upset the balance of an ecosystem, leading to dramatic and often unpredictable changes.

The research team included Dr. Maria Thaker, Amod Zambre and Harshal Bhosale. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. 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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