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Study: Wind Turbines Drive Out Vulnerable Wildlife

posted: 05/07/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Spring landscape with wind turbines
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A new study published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications finds that newly erected wind turbines may be driving vulnerable wildlife out of their natural habitats.

Researchers from four different institutions followed prairie chickens in Kansas for five years before, during and after the construction of a wind turbine farm. They found that mating sites within 5 miles of wind turbines were likely to be abandoned by the chickens.

Male prairie chickens gather at the mating sites, known as leks, to perform mating displays that attract females. Over the five-year study, researchers found that fewer males showed up at the leks each year, and that many were abandoned completely following turbine construction. In the males that did show up, researchers noted a year-over-year decrease in body mass.

"It is critical to have rigorous evaluations of direct and indirect effects of wind energy facilities on species such as prairie-chickens," remarked wildlife management expert Larkin Powell. "The potential for trade-offs between renewable energy and wildlife populations on the landscape is one of the key questions of our day."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently recommends that a 5-mile buffer zone should exist between proposed wind turbines and existing active leks, although the recommendation is not a requirement.

Click here for more information from Ornithological Applications

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