Constant and seasonal drivers of bird communities in a wind farm: implications for conservation

PeerJ. 2016 Jul 19;4:e2105. doi: 10.7717/peerj.2105. eCollection 2016.

Abstract

Background. One of the most difficult challenges for conservation biology is to reconcile growing human demands for resources with the rising need for protecting nature. Wind farms producing renewable energy have been recognised to be a threat for birds, but clear directives for environmental planning are still missing. Methods. Point counts were performed to study the relationship between eight environmental variables and bird populations in different parts of a year on the largest Polish wind farm between March 2011 and February 2013. Variables potentially related to species richness (Chao 1 estimator) and the abundance of the entire bird community as well as five selected farmland species were analysed with the use of generalized linear mixed models. Results. Some associations between the studied variables and bird populations were season/year specific, while others had a constant direction (positive or negative) across seasons and/or years. The latter were distance to the nearest turbine, field size, number of wind turbines, proximity of settlements and water bodies. Spatial autocorrelation and counting time were significantly correlated with bird population estimates but the directions of these relationships varied among seasons and years. Associations between abundance of individual species and environmental variables were species-specific. Conclusions. The results demonstrated a constant negative relationship between wind turbine proximity and bird numbers. Other environmental variables, such as field size, proximity of settlements and water bodies that also had constant associations with bird populations across seasons may be taken into account when minimizing adverse effects of wind farm development on birds or choosing optimal locations of new turbines.

Keywords: Agricultural landscape; Biodiversity; Field; Season; Settlement; Turbine.

Grant support

Technical support and funding was partially provided by EMPEKO and ENINA agencies. Zuzanna M. Rosin was financially supported by the Foundation for Polish Science (grant START 2014 no. 96.2014). Piotr Skórka was funded by the grant Sonata Bis 4 no. 2014/14/ E/NZ8/00165 from the National Science Centre, Poland. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.