Wind Energy and Grassland Birds

3939e4ce557cc33b4a0762ee678447daAnthropogenic disturbances can lead to wildlife population declines due to habitat loss and changes in habitat quality. Understanding wildlife responses to these changes can aid us in mediating impacts to wildlife. Wind energy development, a relatively new form of disturbance, has dramatically increased thanks to recent developments in technology and a growing demand for renewable energy sources. The vast majority of research on wind energy development has focused on direct effects, such as mortality due to turbine strikes. However, very little research has investigated potential indirect effects of wind energy development. These effects could include habitat loss through avoidance of infrastructure, changes in the species composing  the wildlife community, based on species-specific responses to disturbance, and changes in predator habitat use due to the novel scavenging opportunities created by turbine-killed birds and bats.

In Wyoming, wind resources appropriate for industrial-scale wind energy production overlap with grassland habitat. With 97% of US grasslands eliminated and grassland birds experiencing significant population declines, understanding potential novel impacts to grassland birds is imperative. We are investigating potential variation in avian diversity, density, abundance and reproductive success within 3 wind farms and between wind farms and control sites in southeastern Wyoming. We hope our findings will help guide future wind farm site selection and mitigation practices, while adding the the body of knowledge of grassland bird nesting ecology.

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Contact

Anika Mahoney, MS Student
Wyoming Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit
Dept. 3166, 1000 E. University Avenue
Laramie, WY 82071
[email protected]
lab: (307)766-5415

Dr. Anna Chalfoun, Assistant Professor / Assistant Unit Leader
Wyoming Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit
Dept. 3166, 1000 E. University Avenue
Laramie, WY 82071
[email protected]
office: (307)766-6966

Project Lead

After graduating from the University of Georgia in 2002, Anika worked across the US conducting research relating to avian and small mammal ecology. She joined the Chalfoun Lab in January 2011 as an MS student in the Wyoming Cooperative Research Unit within the Department of Zoology and Physiology.

Timeline

Field work on the Wind Energy and Grassland Birds Project began in May 2011 with point count transects, nest searching and monitoring and nestling measurements conducted on 3 wind farms in southeastern Wyoming. In 2012 we incorporated two sites with no energy development, to act as reference sites representing undeveloped grassland habitat, and a fourth wind farm. Project completion is expected in fall/winter of 2013.

Funding & Partners

Wyoming Game and Fish Department