PARIS – Veterinary farms nowadays act as "predators" in some ecosystems, which damages birds at the top of the food chain and generates a knock-on effect often advocated by advocates of green energy, scientists said on Monday.
Wind is the fastest-growing renewable energy sector that supplies about 4% of global electricity demand.
Approximately 17 million hectares, roughly the size of Tunisia, are currently used to produce wind power around the world, and scientists have warned that developers have "significantly underestimated" the impact of technologies on wildlife.
In a new study, the international team of scientists studied the impacts of the use of wind farms in the western Ghats that are on UNESCO's list and the mountains and forests covering the west coast of India and the global "hotspot" of biodiversity.
They found that the raptor birds were four times more rare in the areas of the plateau where wind turbines were present, a disruption that cascaded the food chain and radically changed the density and behavior of birds' prey.
In particular, the team experienced an explosion in the favorite meal of predators – fans – lizards – in areas controlled by turbines.
In addition, they have experienced significant changes in the behavior and appearance of the lizard, living as if they were in an environment that is essentially free of predator.
"What was remarkable for us was the fine changes in the behavior, morphology and physiology of these lizards," said Maria Thaker, deputy of the Indian Center for Environmental Sciences and study director.
As the level of the predators had dropped around the turbines, they had to deal with the speed of the predatory attacks.
As a result, teams have found that lizards living in and around wind power plants have been less vigilant than possible dangers.
Simulating "Predator Attacks," people in the study could get up to five times closer to the wind farm lizard than to one who lives from the turbines before the animals ran away.
After testing, it has been found that turbot lizards have lower levels of stress hormone – something that must occur within two decades since wind farms were built in western Ghana.
Veterinary farms are known to be detrimental to birds, disrupt their migration patterns and cause an above-average mortality rate.
Thaker said her research, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, showed that wind farms replicated the role of the upper predator in the food chain by keeping predators in the bay.
"It will trigger changes in the equilibrium of animals in the ecosystem as if they were the top predators," she said.
"They are" predators "of predators – not in the sense of their killing but by reducing the presence of predators in these areas."
As carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, Thaker said that wind energy is vital to mitigate the effects of climate change.
However, with evidence that the impact of wind farms goes further into Earth's ecosystems than previously thought, it called for greater consideration to be given to the impact of a vital green energy source on the environment.
"Scientists have lasted for decades when they realized that wind turbines negatively affect animals that fly," Thaker said.
"We have to be smart as we use green energy solutions. We will reduce our footprint on the planet and build turbines on places that are somewhat disturbed – for example on buildings."