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Insect fatalities at wind turbines as biodiversity sinks 

Author:  | Germany, Wildlife

[Abstract] Evidence is accumulating that insects are frequently killed by operating wind turbines, yet it is poorly understood if these fatalities cause population declines and changes in assemblage structures on various spatial scales. Current observations suggest that mostly hill-topping, swarming, and migrating insects interact with wind turbines. Recently, the annual loss of insect biomass at wind turbines was estimated for Germany to amount to 1,200t for the plant growth period, which equates to about 1.2 trillion killed insects per year, assuming 1 mg insect body mass. Accordingly, a single turbine located in the temperate zone might kill about 40 million insects per year. Furthermore, Scheimpflug Lidar measurements at operating wind turbines confirm a high insect activity in the risk zone of turbines. These numbers and observations are alarming, yet they require further consolidation, particularly across all continents and climate zones where wind energy industry is expanding. We need to understand (a) how attraction of insects to wind turbines affect fatality rates and interactions of insect predators with wind turbines. (b) We have to connect insect fatalities at wind turbines with source populations and evaluate if these fatalities add to the decline of insect populations and potentially the extinction of species. (c) We need to assess how fatalities at wind turbines change insect-mediated ecosystem services. An ever-growing global wind energy industry with high densities of wind turbines may have long-lasting effects on insects and associated trophic links if negative impacts on insects are not considered during the erection and operation of wind turbines.

Christian C. Voigt, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany

Conservation Science and Practice. 2021;3:e366. doi:10.1111/csp2.366

Download original document: “Insect fatalities at wind turbines as biodiversity sinks

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