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Wind turbines are impacting ecology in Western Ghats

Wind turbines are impacting ecology in Western Ghats

Relevance:

  • GS 3 || Environment || Biodiversity || Animal Diversity

Why In News?

  • The impact of wind farms on local ecosystems can cascade down the food chain, causing indirect impacts on lower-level animals as if turbines were new apex predators, reports a paper published online in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Wind energy

  • Previous studies have shown evidence that wind farms can reduce the local numbers of birds and bats,disrupt bird migration routes and decrease the densities and activities of land mammals. However, it is often assumed that wind turbines’ greatest impacts are confined to flying species.

Impact studied

  • Study observed that  almost four times more predatory birds in areas without wind turbines than around wind-farms.
  • The study suggest that wind farms act like an additional level at the top of the food chain, resulting in a cascading effect on nearby animals.
  • Although wind farms are an essential source of renewable energy, the authors suggest that their effect on the local ecology must be taken into account when determining where turbines should be located.

  • The study was done in the Chalkewadi plateau in Satara district in the northern Western Ghats which is the site of one of the largest and longest-running wind farms in the region
  • Large parts of the plateau and the adjacent valley are in the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve and Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary. These protected areas do not have wind turbines, and were chosen for comparison. Researchers found almost four times more predatory birds in areas without wind turbines than around wind farms. Study foundmore lizards around wind farms. This, researchers said, can be attributed to there being fewer predatory bird attacks near wind farms.

Study on lizards

In order to record changes in the physiology of lizards, researchers measured hormonal stress reactivity. Study captured lizards and took blood samples, and quantified the level of stress hormone, corticosterone. Blood samples were collected from lizards picked up from both sites – areas with wind farm and area without wind farms. The lizards picked up in the wind farm region had lower levels of the stress hormone and allowed humans to get closer before fleeing, indicating that they experience less predation.

Importance of paper

  • It showed that wind farms are like top predators, and their impact can result not only in the decrease of bird activity (which was known previous), but it also indirectly increases the density of lizards, and changes the morphology, behaviour and physiology of those lizards. Adding or removing a top predator has wide-scale consequences for ecosystems and study shows that anthropogenic structures can do just that.

Additional References

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/science/wind-turbines-are-impacting-ecology-in-western-ghats/article25434862.ece

Mains  Question

What is the the impact of wind farms on local ecosystems?