Bird on the wire: Landscape planning considering costs and benefits for bird populations coexisting with power lines

Ambio. 2018 Oct;47(6):650-656. doi: 10.1007/s13280-018-1025-z. Epub 2018 Feb 24.


Power-line grids are increasingly expanding worldwide, as well as their negative impacts on avifauna, namely the direct mortality through collision and electrocution, the reduction of breeding performance, and the barrier effect. On the other hand, some bird species can apparently benefit from the presence of power lines, for example perching for hunting purposes or nesting on electricity towers. In this perspective essay, we reviewed the scientific literature on both costs and benefits for avifauna coexisting with power lines. Overall, we detected a generalized lack of studies focusing on these costs or benefits at a population level. We suggest that a switch in research approach to a larger spatio-temporal scale would greatly improve our knowledge about the actual effects of power lines on bird populations. This research approach would facilitate suitable landscape planning encompassing both mitigation of costs and promotion of benefits for bird populations coexisting with power lines. For example, the strategic route planning of electricity infrastructures would limit collision risk or barrier effects for threatened bird populations. Concurrently, this strategic route planning would promote the range expansion of threatened populations of other bird species, by providing nesting structures in treeless but potentially suitable landscapes. We suggest establishing a collaborative dialogue among the scientific community, governments, and electricity companies, with the aim to produce a win-win scenario in which both biodiversity conservation and infrastructure development are integrated in a common strategy.

Keywords: Barrier effect; Collision; Electrocution; Nesting platforms; Route planning; Win–win scenario.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Birds*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Electricity*