Killing Them Softly: How Wind Turbines Affect Waterfowl Nesting
Green energy may be good for the environment, but a growing number of scientists are concerned it may not be for waterfowl. A recent study in the Dakotas is adding fuel to those concerns. It found breeding duck densities were considerably lower around large-scale wind farms compared to wetlands with no turbines in sight.
“We don’t know if the decline is a result of the towers themselves, the motion, noise of the blades, or the increased traffic from maintenance workers,” says USFWS biologist Dr. Chuck Loesch. “It could be a combination of all those or something else, but that really wasn’t the focus of the study. We wanted to determine if the presence of wind energy development had an impact on duck breeding densities.”
One nesting site had a 56-percent lower breeding pair density than a similar site with no wind turbines. Overall, the number of breeding ducks using wetlands near the wind farms was 20 percent lower than in wetlands with no wind development nearby.
Ducks are avoiding wind projects, but they may not have many options in the future. Loesch says the push for renewable energy will likely lead to a huge number of large-scale projects in the wind-rich Prairie Pothole Region. The projected footprint of future wind farms will cover more than 15,000-square miles by 2030 if the federal government meets its goal. The Department of Energy wants 20 percent of the country’s energy to come from renewable sources. It’s impossible to say where those new turbines will pop up, but Loesch says it’s inevitable many will be near critical areas. Read article