Hotspots identified in Europe: where birds often fall victim to wind turbines

Hot spots have been identified in Europe
Where birds often fall victim to wind turbines

In the future, renewable energies such as wind and sun will be used more and more because they are one thing above all: environmentally friendly. However, wind turbines and associated power lines become hazardous in certain locations. Where exactly, the investigation explains.

A large study identified several regions in Europe where birds are particularly at risk from wind turbines and power lines. In addition to southern Spain and parts of the French Mediterranean coast, these dangerous hotspots also include the German Baltic coast. In the “Journal of Applied Ecology,” the team of more than 50 researchers named bird species particularly endangered and recommends specific actions to protect the animals.

The switch to renewable energies aims to reduce climate change and is also being vigorously promoted by the federal government. In Europe, power from onshore wind turbines should increase from about 169 gigawatts in 2018 to 760 gigawatts in 2050, the team wrote. The pipeline network should also be expanded accordingly. North Africa and the Middle East – two important regions for migratory birds – also want to focus more on renewable energy sources.

Jethro Gold’s team at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, which includes researchers from 15 countries – including several from Germany, writes that “if poorly planned or planned, wind farms and power lines can increase the mortality of vulnerable birds.” As examples of weak birds, they cite large waterfowl, gulls, storks and birds, as well as owls, eagles and other birds of prey.

Compare with GPS data

In the large-scale project, more than 50 researchers used GPS data for nearly 1,500 birds of 27 mostly large species. They compared this information to wind farms and power lines in and around Europe, including North Africa and the Middle East. They paid special attention to the flight altitudes of the species in question: flight altitudes of 10 to 60 meters were considered critically endangered by power lines and 15 to 135 meters by wind turbines.

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

Accordingly, the following five bird species are most at risk from power lines: the white stork (Ciconia ciconia), spoon beak (Platalea leucorodia), swans lint (Cygnus Cygnus), eagle owl (Bobo Bobo) and the Iberian eagle (Aquila Adalberte). In addition to the eagle owl, swans, and spoonbills, wind turbines mainly threaten cranes (good greeting) and white-fronted geese (ANSER BEVRON).

Regarding both hotspots and endangered species, the researchers explicitly stress that their assessment is based largely on the number of wind turbines and available data. This mainly applies to Germany, where there is a lot of GPS data as well as a relatively high density of wind turbines.

Be kind to birds

In general, these systems should be minimized at identified collision hotspots or – if necessary – secured by special measures. In the case of power lines, for example, this involves labeling power cables more clearly. The rotating blades of wind turbines can also be better identified, and these systems can also be turned off 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 radar so that they automatically turn off when birds approach.

The researchers complain that wind turbine risk assessments are often only made after the site in question has been selected, since the purely economic aspects are at the forefront of operators. “We know from previous studies that there are many more suitable locations for wind turbines than we need to achieve our energy goals by 2050,” Gold was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his university. “If we can better assess biodiversity risks, including bird strikes, early in the planning process, we will reduce the impact of these developments on wildlife while still achieving our climate goals.”

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