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Landscape effect of wind turbines on farmland and forest birds in Sweden

Kost, Carsten (2018) BIOM01 20171
Degree Projects in Biology
Abstract
The amount of wind turbines in Sweden has more than doubled in the last five years. Wind turbines can affect birds directly, by causing fatalities and indirectly, through habitat destruction, disturbance and barrier effects resulting from turbine construction and operation. To increase understanding of how this rapidly expanding form of energy harvesting affects avian communities in Sweden large, long-term datasets on birds, turbines, land use and weather in Sweden were used to create general linear models with random effects. These models were used to test the response of different indicator groups and species of forest and farmland birds to different turbine related variables, such as the turbine number in an area, time passed since... (More)
The amount of wind turbines in Sweden has more than doubled in the last five years. Wind turbines can affect birds directly, by causing fatalities and indirectly, through habitat destruction, disturbance and barrier effects resulting from turbine construction and operation. To increase understanding of how this rapidly expanding form of energy harvesting affects avian communities in Sweden large, long-term datasets on birds, turbines, land use and weather in Sweden were used to create general linear models with random effects. These models were used to test the response of different indicator groups and species of forest and farmland birds to different turbine related variables, such as the turbine number in an area, time passed since turbine construction and distance from the area. Only for some groups and species a significant response could be detected. This response was predominantly negative, with a large inter-specific variation regarding the magnitude of the effect. When using groups of birds, the effect on some species became masked by others being seemingly unaffected. Forest birds decreased in species richness when turbines where present while farmland birds did not. In accordance with that, analyses on species level showed that the vast majority of negatively affected birds were forest species. Two species showed positive responses to wind turbines, possibly connected to benefits associated with turbines such as the creation of microhabitats and increased food availability. The explanatory power of this study was mainly limited by the number of suitable sites that were available given the data. By refining and expanding the methodology used, more insights could be found in future studies. (Less)
Popular Abstract
Bird count data reveals effect of wind turbines

The development of renewable energy, such as wind turbines, that is needed to counteract climate change is rapidly expanding. The effects of renewable energy structures on wildlife are not fully understood yet. Birds can be directly affected, for example by fatally colliding with wind turbines, but this has been shown to be quite limited in Sweden. However, indirect and cumulative effects (e.g. how entire bird populations or communities respond to the presence of turbines) are currently not understood. In Sweden, birds have been systematically surveyed every year in hundreds of sites over the last two decades. By looking at sites where they were surveyed before and after wind turbines were... (More)
Bird count data reveals effect of wind turbines

The development of renewable energy, such as wind turbines, that is needed to counteract climate change is rapidly expanding. The effects of renewable energy structures on wildlife are not fully understood yet. Birds can be directly affected, for example by fatally colliding with wind turbines, but this has been shown to be quite limited in Sweden. However, indirect and cumulative effects (e.g. how entire bird populations or communities respond to the presence of turbines) are currently not understood. In Sweden, birds have been systematically surveyed every year in hundreds of sites over the last two decades. By looking at sites where they were surveyed before and after wind turbines were built, one can measure if the turbines reduce the number of birds in the long-term.

A number of sites were selected based on where wind turbines have been constructed close to locations where birds are regularly counted. For each site, the number of turbines was calculated, as well as the distance of the bird counting site from the turbines and how long the turbines have been there. Control sites were then determined by looking for an equal number of sites that have the same landscape characteristics but where no turbines have been built. For sites with and without wind turbines weather information was added, in addition to other factors that might change bird numbers independently from wind turbines. This way it was possible to compare the sites with and without turbines and at the same time rule out other factors that may also impact bird numbers. This process was performed with statistical models. The study was limited to a selection of bird species that live in forests or farmland in Sweden.

The results of the model showed that some, but not all bird species, decline in numbers in an area where wind turbines are constructed. In addition, they showed that forest birds, in general, are more negatively affected by wind turbines than farmland birds, which is probably due to the decrease in forest habitat when turbines are constructed. For bird species that live in farmland, the relative difference in their living space after the construction of wind turbines is less extreme, which is probably why not so many of them were shown to decline in this study. The model was also compiled for the number of species found in an area, whereby forest species and farmland species were grouped together separately. The results showed that there are significantly fewer forest species in an area with turbines, which was not the case for farmland species.

The numbers of two of the investigated bird species increased after wind turbines were constructed in an area. Since turbines have been shown to attract insects a possible explanation for this is that the swallow (Hirundo rustica), being an insect eater, uses the area around the turbines to forage. The increase in numbers of the icterine warbler (Hippolais icterina) in association with wind turbines indicates that the species might be benefitting from the habitat under the turbines changing in a way that is beneficial for it. However, the positive effect was only occurring if the turbines were constructed at locations with a high proportion of farmland, whereas there was a negative effect of turbines on the same species in forest dominated landscapes.

Positive effects of turbines were generally exceptions and most bird species that were affected by wind turbines declined after their construction. For some of the species, the decline became stronger over time. This indicates that these bird species either do not get used to the turbines being there or that they decline despite adapting to the turbines to some degree. In conclusion this study shows that the number of many bird species is negatively affected by wind turbines. It also shows that the effect depends on the ecology of the species as well as on the land use where the turbines are constructed. Generally, wind turbine construction has a more negative effect for forest species than for farmland species. This should be further researched and considered when constructing turbines in the future.

Master’s Degree Project in Biology, 30 credits 2018
Advisors: Paul Caplat & Martin Green
Department of Biology, Lund University (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Kost, Carsten
supervisor
organization
course
BIOM01 20171
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
language
English
id
8948008
date added to LUP
2018-06-11 15:04:09
date last changed
2018-06-11 15:04:09
@misc{8948008,
  abstract     = {The amount of wind turbines in Sweden has more than doubled in the last five years. Wind turbines can affect birds directly, by causing fatalities and indirectly, through habitat destruction, disturbance and barrier effects resulting from turbine construction and operation. To increase understanding of how this rapidly expanding form of energy harvesting affects avian communities in Sweden large, long-term datasets on birds, turbines, land use and weather in Sweden were used to create general linear models with random effects. These models were used to test the response of different indicator groups and species of forest and farmland birds to different turbine related variables, such as the turbine number in an area, time passed since turbine construction and distance from the area. Only for some groups and species a significant response could be detected. This response was predominantly negative, with a large inter-specific variation regarding the magnitude of the effect. When using groups of birds, the effect on some species became masked by others being seemingly unaffected. Forest birds decreased in species richness when turbines where present while farmland birds did not. In accordance with that, analyses on species level showed that the vast majority of negatively affected birds were forest species. Two species showed positive responses to wind turbines, possibly connected to benefits associated with turbines such as the creation of microhabitats and increased food availability. The explanatory power of this study was mainly limited by the number of suitable sites that were available given the data. By refining and expanding the methodology used, more insights could be found in future studies.},
  author       = {Kost, Carsten},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Landscape effect of wind turbines on farmland and forest birds in Sweden},
  year         = {2018},
}