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Experts fear windfarms’ effects on vital bugs and worms

Windfarms could destroy bugs and worms that are the basis of the food chain, according to scientists and environmental experts.

They are fearful of a potentially catastrophic gap in knowledge about the industry’s possible effects on the Highland landscape.

One academic has urged the Scottish Government to order a moratorium on onshore windfarms to allow a scientific study to establish whether or not turbine vibration and sub-sonic noise threatens some our tiniest and rarest creatures.

Forres-based retired ethics professor Dixie Deans has written to ministers, telling them: “Every single thing depends on fungi, mushrooms, lichen, invertebrates and insects which lie at the very base of the food chain. We know that many species are extremely vulnerable to small environmental changes.

“Windfarms are said to be environmentally friendly. In fact, there is no reliable, sustainable or provable way of forecasting what the noise or vibration levels from any windfarm will be. Let’s get knowledge of this before we rush into building more.” He has contacted a wide range of government agencies, environmental and trade organisations for feedback, finding that few had considered the issue. Most were keen to establish the facts.

Adding his voice to a chorus of which dismisses the industry’s claimed efficiency of turbines, Mr Dean also echoed the growing concern surrounding the implications of building windfarms in peat bogs, believing high frequency vibrations would lead to a collapse of the terrain leading to foul water seeping into surrounding rivers and burns.

John Etherington, a retired reader of ecology at the University of Wales in Cardiff and specialist in environmental science, argued that highly decayed peat can “liquify” through vibration.

He said: “I am sure vibration might cause liquifaction. In other circumstances it might cause degassing of occluded ‘air’ or methane in peat or compaction of wet mineral soils. All of these would influence organisms.

“The problem in battling with the developers and a government which supports them is that one has to provide documentation of any claims and preferably peer-reviewed publication.”

The Bug Life charity states that one in three mouthfuls of our food depends on insect pollination and that luxuries such as honey, chocolate, coffee and silk would not exist without invertebrates. It also claims 90% of wild flowers could be threatened with extinction if there were no invertebrates to pollinate them. “Bugs are a vital food source for wild animals and birds. Our countryside would be an empty, silent place without them,” according to a spokesman.

The Press and Journal

13 September 2007