Wind farms act as a top "predator" in some ecosystems, bird counts at the top of the food chain, and trigger an effect neglected by green energy advocates, scientists said on Monday.
The wind is the fastest growing sector of renewable energy, which supplies about four percent of global demand for electricity.
Nearly 17 million hectares – an area about the size of Tunisia – is currently used to produce wind energy around the world, and researchers have warned that developers have "greatly underestimated" the impact of technology on wildlife.
In a new study, the international team of scientists studied the impact of the use of a wind turbine in Western Ghats, a series of mountains and forests mentioned in UNESCO that stretches on the west coast of India and the global "focal point" of biodiversity.
They found that the birds of raptor plunder were four times smaller in the plateau regions where there were wind farms, a disorder that cascaded down the food chain, and radically altered the density and behavior of the prey.
The team especially watched an explosion in a favorite meal, lizards on the reefs, in areas dominated by turbines.
In addition, they saw significant changes in the behavior and appearance of lizards, who lived in life essentially without predators.
"For us, there have been incredible subtle changes in the behavior, morphology and physiology of these lizards," said AFP Professor Marie Thaker, Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Science Center for Environmental Sciences and author of a leading study.
As raptor levels fell around the turbine, the degree of predatory attacks on the lizard had to be dealt with.
As a result, the team found that lizards living in wind farms and around them reduced the alertness from possible hazards.
Simulating "predator attacks", people in the studio could up to five times closer to the lizard in the wind farm areas than those who lived far from the turbines before the creatures escaped.
"Be Smart With Green Energy"
After testing, lizards near the windmills had lower levels of stress hormones, something that had to occur in two decades since the wind farms were built in Western Ghats.
It is known that wind farms are detrimental to birds, disrupting their migration patterns and causing them to exceed the average mortality rate.
Thaker said that her research, published in Nature Ecologi & Evolution, showed that wind turbines replicated the role of a top-level predator in the food chain, holding the raptors in the bay.
"They trigger changes in the equilibrium of animals in the ecosystem as if they are the most important predators," she said.
"They are" predators "of raptors – not in terms of killing them, but by reducing the presence of raptors in these areas."
As carbon emissions from people continue to grow, Thaker said that wind energy is vital for mitigating the effects of climate change.
However, with the evidence that the impact of wind farms on Earth's ecosystems is far reaching than previously thought, it called for greater consideration of the impact of a vital energy source on the environment.
"It took decades for scientists to understand that wind turbines adversely affect animals that fly," Thaker said.
"We need to be smart about how green energy solutions are distributed. Let's reduce our impact on the planet and put turbines in places that are somehow upset – on buildings for example."