[abstract] Human activities often impact the sensory environment of organisms. Wind energy turbines are a fast-growing potential source of anthropogenic vibrational noise that can affect soil animals sensitive to vibrations and thereby alter soil community functioning. Larger soil animals, such as earthworms (macrofauna, > 1 cm in size), are particularly likely to be impacted by the low-frequency turbine waves that can travel through soils over large distances. Here we examine the effect of wind turbine-induced vibrational noise on the abundance of soil animals. We measured vibrational noise generated by seven different turbines located in organically-farmed crop fields in the Netherlands. Vibratory noise levels dropped by an average of 23 ± 7 dB over a distance of 200 m away from the wind turbines. Earthworm abundance showed a strong decrease with increasing vibratory noise. When comparing the nearest sampling points in proximity of the wind energy turbines with the points furthest away, abundance dropped on average by 40% across all seven fields. The abundance of small-sized soil animals (mesofauna, < 10 mm in size) differed between crop fields, but was not related to local noise levels. Our results suggest that anthropogenic vibratory noise levels can impact larger soil fauna, which has important consequences for soil functioning. Earthworms, for instance, are considered to be crucial ecosystem engineers and an impact on their abundance, survival and reproduction may have knock-on effects on important processes such as water filtration, nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration.
Estefania Velilla, Eleanor Collinson, Laura Bellato, Matty P. Berg, Wouter Halfwerk
Dept of Ecological Science, Vrije Univ. Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Oikos, Volume 130, Issue 6, Jun 2021, Pages 821-1025
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