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The challenge of “balancing wildlife conservation and decarbonizing the power sector” has faced grasslands and shrub-steppes across North America, according to findings published in the July 2022 issue of the Wildlife Society Bulletin.
John Lloyd of the Renewable Energy Wildlife Institute and colleagues found that short-term prairie grouse (sharp-tailed grouse, sage-grouse, prairie grouse, and prairie grouse) “adult survival and success nests appear largely unaffected in populations exposed to wind installations.
Based on an overlap between the estimated range of each species and the location of wind turbines in the United States, approximately 17% of operating wind turbines fall within the range of one of the four species . The Sharp-tailed Grouse, which has the largest range, is close to the largest number of wind turbines: 5,004. The Greater Sage-Grouse and Greater Prairie-Chicken had fewer wind turbines in their geographic 399 and 2,987, respectively), with the range of the Greater Prairie-Chicken overlapping 1,040 wind turbines.
“Prairie grouse are vulnerable to collisions with fences and power lines, and in some cases collisions can be a significant source of annual mortality,” the researchers report. However, risks related to turbine blades or towers did not appear to be widespread. In 230 monitoring studies conducted between 2000 and 2017 at 130 wind farms in the United States, four greater sage-grouse, two sharp-tailed grouse and one greater prairie-grouse may have been victims of collisions with wind turbines or towers.
Greater prairie grouse at leks closest to wind turbines in Nebraska, however, have had changes in vocalizations that may be related to the noise produced by wind turbines or the roads built to service them. “Noise associated with wind infrastructure could mask vocalizations that attract females to leks, which could lead to lek abandonment,” Lloyd and co-authors write.
In some cases, prairie grouse seem to completely avoid areas around wind infrastructure. In others, “no evidence of avoidance or displacement was found,” the researchers report. “When this occurred, avoidance of habitat near wind infrastructure was most evident in males frequenting leks and in females during the breeding season, particularly during the brood-rearing season. .”
Conserving prairie grouse populations in the face of wind energy development, according to Lloyd and his co-authors, “will require a coordinated effort to link research, monitoring and management that addresses each new wind energy development as an opportunity to refine mitigation approaches”. .”
Looking for Sharp-tailed Grouse
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of BirdWatching magazine. Subscribe