Wind turbines are the world’s new ‘apex predators’, wiping out buzzards, hawks and other carnivorous birds at the top of the food chain, say scientists.
A study of wind farms in India found that predatory bird numbers drop by three quarters in areas around the turbines.
This is having a ‘ripple effect’ across the food chain, with small mammals and reptiles adjusting their behaviour as their natural predators disappear from the skies.
Birds and bats were assumed to be most vulnerable to the rise of the landscape-blotting machines.
But their impact is reverberating across species, experts warned, upsetting nature’s delicate balance.
The news is particularly worrying as most wind farms are built on wide open plains and other environments where birds are typically found.
Scroll down for video
Wind turbines are the world’s new ‘apex predators’, wiping out eagles, hawks and other carnivorous birds at the top of the food chain, say scientists (stock image)
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru studied lizard and bird populations at three wind turbine sites in the Western Ghats.
They found almost four times fewer buzzards, hawks and kites in areas with wind farms – a loss of about 75 per cent.
In areas without turbines around 19 birds were spotted every three hours, while nearer to the machines this number dropped to around five.
This led to an abundance of the fan-throated lizard, a species only found on the Indian sub continent and a favourite snack of the predatory birds.
The reptile also had lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone and this changed how it lived.
For instance, humans were able to get much closer than usual before they ran off, as without predatory birds around, they had become less fearful.
The analysis has implications for wind farms all over the globe – including Britain, where the top predators include many birds of prey such as owls and eagles.
Study coauthor Professor Maria Thaker said: ‘We have known from many studies that wind farms affect birds and bats.
‘They kill them and disrupt their movement. But we took that one step further and discovered that it affects lizards too.
‘Every time a top predator is removed or added, unexpected effects trickle through the ecosystem.
Researchers studied lizard and bird populations at three wind turbine sites in India’s Western Ghats. They found almost four times fewer buzzards, hawks and kites in areas with wind farms – a loss of about 75 per cent (file photo)
‘What is actually happening here is the wind-turbines are akin to adding a top predator to the ecosystem.’
The study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution compared populations of raptors and lizards on a plateau that has had a wind farm for around 20 years to an adjacent valley that has no turbines.
It also took blood samples from 144 lizards captured on the two locations in the northern area of the mountain range.
Wind turbines are known to kill large birds, such as golden eagles.
A recent study by an international team of scientists found the decline of apex predators is ‘arguably humankind’s most pervasive influence on the natural world.’
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST WIND FARMS IN THE WORLD?
Wind farms are measured by the amount of megawatts a farm is capable of producing.
A single megawatt (MW) of wind power can run around 1,000 homes for a year.
The five largest offshore wind farms in the world are currently:
- The Walney Extension (UK), 659MW
- London Array (UK), 630MW
- Gemini (Netherlands), 600MW
- Gode Wind (Germany), 582MW
- Gwynt y Mor (UK), 576MW
The five largest onshore wind farms are currently:
- Gansu wind farm (China), 7,965MW
- Alta Wind Energy Center (California), 1,548MW
- Muppandal wind farm (India), 1,064MW
- Shepherds Flat Wind Farm (Oregon), 845MW
- Roscoe Wind Farm (Texas), 781.5MW
These include wolves and lions on land, whales and sharks in the oceans and large fish in freshwater ecosystems.
There have also been dramatic falls in populations of large herbivores like elephants and bison. The trophic cascade has moved down the food chain.
Representing the wind industry, RenewableUK’s Executive Director, Emma Pinchbeck, told MailOnline:
‘Strict rules mean that wind farms can only be built in the UK in the right locations which meet rigorous standards, protecting our country’s rich biodiversity.
‘A comprehensive 2-year study published in April, supported by the RSPB and Natural England, showed that birds avoid flying near wind turbines in the English Channel, as they are carefully sited.
‘Wildlife organisations including the RSPB and WWF agree that the biggest threat to all species is climate change, so cutting carbon emissions by generating electricity from wind is one of the most important steps we can take to safeguard wildlife.’
- Covid crisis at Britain's food plants: 75 staff test positive at chicken factory in Norfolk is latest of FORTY outbreaks at processing sites across UK
- Coronavirus UK news LIVE: Eat Out to Help Out scheme ends today as thousands of returning travelers break quarantine
- New York Latino Film Festival: ‘Habla Now’, ‘Charm City Kings’, ‘Critical Thinking’ And More Set For Hybrid Edition Of Fest
- A Grandmother And Her Family Survived Hurricane Laura. Then Their Generator Killed Them.
- A Family Rode Out And Survived Hurricane Laura. Then Their Generator Killed Them.
- China Secretly Built A Vast New Infrastructure To Imprison Muslims
- Rogue State: How Far-Right Fanatics Hijacked Kansas
- Operation Condor: the illegal state network that terrorised South America
- Hurricanes, fires, floods and locusts: Science says climate change is here but the RNC refuses to believe
- 'She can barely walk': Florida's elderly complicate hurricane response
- Bloomin' heck! Plants can see, hear and CHAT... so is this proof Prince Charles was right all along?
- The Latest: Australian hot spot extends state of emergency
- Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: Sept. 2-3
- The butcher's shop that lasted 300 years (give or take)
- A Vow of Silence, a Cabin in the Woods, a Terrible Wildfire
- 'We’ve covered huge swathes of the UK in tarmac': how roads affect birds
- 'It's no way to help the UK economy': Furious business chiefs and MPs slam Rishi Sunak's £30billion tax raid on Britain's middle class with capital gains and corporation taxes both set to be raised to pay for coronavirus bailout
- VIETNAM'S BUSINESS NEWS HEADLINES SEPTEMBER 2
- What are stingrays?
- Ancient caiman with 'no parallel in the modern world' left 46 bite marks on sloth leg
Wind farms are the 'new apex predators': Blades kill off 75% of buzzards, hawks and kites that live nearby, study shows have 1093 words, post on www.dailymail.co.uk at November 5, 2018. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.