Comments on the report “Wind Energy Developments and Natura 2000”, edited by the European Commission in October 2010 (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/management/docs/Wind_farms.pdf)
The EU Guidance on wind energy development in accordance with the EU nature legislation (thereafter called EU Guidance) listed several bird species which are subject to different types of detrimental effects by wind farms. The explanations below should clarify that the following summary statement of the EU Guidance (p. 102) on onshore collision fatalities of birds doesn’t match the current state of research: “Collision rates are overall very low, but with the noteworthy exception of high frequency of fatalities involving raptors. Special concern has to be raised for e.g. Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Red Kite (Milvus milvus) and Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). Single cases with high number of fatalities at various locations in e.g. California, Spain and Norway have attracted wide-spread publicity, but risks are highly site-specific.” A thorough examination of the German list of wind turbine fatalities shows that EU-list is incomplete regarding especially the bird strike/collision risk of several species.
To my knowledge no long-term, wide-ranging, systematic and all-species-covering bird fatality searches like those in California (Smallwood 2010) were done until now in European wind farms. An exception is the study on Smola in Norway (Bevanger et al. 2009b). However, this is not a typical site for a European windfarm and the number of bird species living there is small, especially in the strong snowy winters. Furthermore, no representative sampling or comprehensive recording of wind turbine fatalities even of single species exists in any European country to my knowledge. Apart from some vulture and eagle species and the Red kite (Camin?a 2008, Carrete etal. 2009, Du?rr 2009, Nyga?rd et al. 2010), there is a apparent lack of comprehensive data which prevents scientifically sound extrapolations of wind turbine casualties for bird populations of greater areas or whole countries.
Extrapolations using the collision risk model proposed by the so-called “Band model” which largely depend on the precise estimation of avoidance rates (Chamberlain et al. 2006) or better called correction factor (which encompass different sources of error, May et al. 2010) are not reliable currently because “avoidance rates” are calculated indirectly by dividing the estimated actual mortality rate by the number of birds flying through the rotor disc area instead of using direct behavioural observations. That calculation procedure is subject to substantial observer, stochastic and systematic error (Chamberlain et al. 2006, May et al. 2010). One main source of error is the mortality estimation, which depends on the same poor data basis – as shown above – for almost all European bird species.
Summing up, the knowledge of the specific collision vulnerability or risk of European bird species is poor. This makes it even more important to use all the available information. However, the EU Guidance document missed several studies available in 2010, especially from non-English speaking countries; for example, the German wind turbine fatality data base compiled by the bird conservation agency of the federal state of Brandenburg which has been available on the internet for several years (http://www.mugv.brandenburg.de/cms/media.php/lbm1.a.2334.de/wka_vogel.xls). …
Therefore, a revision of Annex II of the EU Guidance is required which considers also the new information derived from the German fatality list. The application of the precautionary principle needs to incorporate also collision risk assessments which are based on a poor data basis but give plausible arguments for a potential significant risk.
Certainly a revision of Annex II should add further bird species with collision risk which are not in the focus of the German fatality list and further species should get a higher collision risk ranking which the EU Guidance classified carrying a low risk. Some relevant raptor, wetland and grouse species can be found e.g. in Vasilikas et al. (2009), Lekuona & Ursua (2007), Bevanger et al. (2009b), Everaert (2008) and Zeiler et al. (2009).
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