Using Wind Tunnels to Predict Bird Mortality in Wind Farms: The Case of Griffon Vultures

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de Lucas, Manuela ; Ferrer, Miguel ; Janss, Guyonne F. E. (2012)
  • Publisher: Public Library of Science
  • Journal: PLoS ONE, volume 7, issue 11 (issn: 1932-6203, eissn: 1932-6203)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048092, pmc: PMC3494692, handle: 10261/63931
  • Subject: Research Article | Biology | Biodiversity | Veterinary Science | Animal Behavior | Behavioral Ecology | Ornithology | Medicine | Ecological Environments | Agriculture | Q | R | Ecology | Evolutionary Biology | Science | Conservation Science | Spatial and Landscape Ecology | Animal Management | Zoology | Terrestrial Ecology

Background: Wind farms have shown a spectacular growth during the last 15 years. Avian mortality through collision with moving rotor blades is well-known as one of the main adverse impacts of wind farms. In Spain, the griffon vulture incurs the highest mortality rates in wind farms. Methodology/Principal Findings: As far as we know, this study is the first attempt to predict flight trajectories of birds in order to foresee potentially dangerous areas for wind farm development. We analyse topography and wind flows in relation to flight paths of griffon vultures, using a scaled model of the wind farm area in an aerodynamic wind tunnel, and test the difference between the observed flight paths of griffon vultures and the predominant wind flows. Different wind currents for each wind direction in the aerodynamic model were observed. Simulations of wind flows in a wind tunnel were compared with observed flight paths of griffon vultures. No statistical differences were detected between the observed flight trajectories of griffon vultures and the wind passages observed in our wind tunnel model. A significant correlation was found between dead vultures predicted proportion of vultures crossing those cells according to the aerodynamic model. Conclusions: Griffon vulture flight routes matched the predominant wind flows in the area (i.e. they followed the routes where less flight effort was needed). We suggest using these kinds of simulations to predict flight paths over complex terrains can inform the location of wind turbines and thereby reduce soaring bird mortality. © 2012 de Lucas et al.
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