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Model-Based Estimation of Collision Risks of Predatory Birds with Wind Turbines

Marcus Eichhorn, UFZ-Helmhotz Centre for Environmental Research
Karin Johst, UFZ-Helmhotz Centre for Environmental Research
Ralf Seppelt, UFZ-Helmhotz Centre for Environmental Research
Martin Drechsler, UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-04594-170201

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Abstract

The expansion of renewable energies, such as wind power, is a promising way of mitigating climate change. Because of the risk of collision with rotor blades, wind turbines have negative effects on local bird populations, particularly on raptors such as the Red Kite (Milvus milvus). Appropriate assessment tools for these effects have been lacking. To close this gap, we have developed an agent-based, spatially explicit model that simulates the foraging behavior of the Red Kite around its aerie in a landscape consisting of different land-use types. We determined the collision risk of the Red Kite with the turbine as a function of the distance between the wind turbine and the aerie and other parameters. The impact function comprises the synergistic effects of species-specific foraging behavior and landscape structure. The collision risk declines exponentially with increasing distance. The strength of this decline depends on the raptorís foraging behavior, its ability to avoid wind turbines, and the mean wind speed in the region. The collision risks, which are estimated by the simulation model, are in the range of values observed in the field. The derived impact function shows that the collision risk can be described as an aggregated function of distance between the wind turbine and the raptorís aerie. This allows an easy and rapid assessment of the ecological impacts of (existing or planned) wind turbines in relation to their spatial location. Furthermore, it implies that minimum buffer zones for different landscapes can be determined in a defensible way. This modeling approach can be extended to other bird species with central-place foraging behavior. It provides a helpful tool for landscape planning aimed at minimizing the impacts of wind power on biodiversity.

Key words

collision risk; foraging behavior; impact assessment; individual-based model; Milvus milvus; Red Kite; spatial model; wind power
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087