Bird populations decrease near wind turbines - study

Updated / Wednesday, 24 Oct 2018 11:11

The study found that clearing of habitats during wind farm construction resulted in lower densities of birds, like Chaffinches, close to wind turbines. (Pic: Darío Fernández-Bellon)

By Will Goodbody

New research by scientists in Cork has found that Irish bird populations decrease in the areas immediately adjacent to wind turbines.

The study found that the main reason appears to be the clearing of habitats during the construction of the wind farms.

The researchers say how birds use upland habitats could be impacted into the future as the number of wind turbines increases.

The study was led by Dr Darío Fernández-Bellon of the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Environmental Research Institute in University College Cork

He and colleagues surveyed birds at 12 upland wind farms and found that populations of birds were 10% lower in areas close to where the wind turbines were built.

Forest species like Chaffinches, Great tits or Goldcrests are the most affected as commercial plantation forests are cleared to make way for turbines and wind farm tracks," said Dr Fernández-Bellon.

"Most people are familiar with the problem of bird collisions with wind turbine blades, but this study highlights how indirect effects, such as the alteration of habitats, can also be important."

It is expected that wind farms will provide a fifth of the world's energy requirements by the middle of the century.

But the UCC team says this is not all good news for the environment and the impact on wider ecosystems must be taken into account.

"Our study shows that wind farms have different effects on different bird species depending on the habitats they use and how these habitats are affected by wind farm development," said Dr Fernández-Bellon.

"Although all of the birds considered in this study were relatively common and widespread, impacts on these species should not be dismissed."

The research has been published in the journal Conservation Biology.