Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wind power does not strongly affect greater prairie chickens, seven-year study finds

11.07.2013
Wind power development does not ruffle the feathers of greater prairie chicken populations, according to the results of a seven-year study from a Kansas State University ecologist and his team.

The researchers -- led by Brett Sandercock, professor of biology -- discovered that wind turbines have little effect on greater prairie chickens, and that these grassland birds are more affected by rangeland management practices and by the availability of native prairie and vegetation cover at nest sites. Unexpectedly, the scientists also found that female survival rates increased after wind turbines were installed.

With the arrival of wind energy projects in Kansas and throughout the Plains, Sandercock and his team were part of a consortium of stakeholders -- including conservationists, wildlife agencies and wind energy companies -- who studied how these wind projects influence grassland birds.

"We had a lot of buy-in from stakeholders and we had an effective oversight committee," said Sandercock, who studies grassland birds. "The research will certainly aid with wind power site guidelines and with the development of mitigation strategies to enhance habitat conditions for the greater prairie chicken."

The greater prairie chicken was once abundant across the central Plains, but populations have declined because of habitat loss and human development. The chickens now are primarily found in the Great Plains in Kansas -- particularly the Smoky Hills and the Flint Hills -- where the largest tracts of prairie remain.

Sandercock and his team started their study in 2006 with three field sites that were chosen for wind development: a site in the Smoky Hills in north central Kansas, a site in the northern Flint Hills in northeastern Kansas and a site in the southern Flint Hills in southern Kansas. The Smoky Hills site -- the Meridian Way Wind Power Facility near Concordia -- was developed into a wind energy site, which gave researchers the opportunity to observe greater prairie chickens before, during and after wind turbine construction. The researchers cooperated and collaborated with private landowners at each site.

The researchers studied the birds for seven breeding seasons and captured nearly 1,000 total male and female birds around lek sites, which are communal areas where males gather and make calls to attract females. Females mate with the males and then hide nests in tall prairie grass.

The scientists researched many different features of prairie chickens and their biology: patterns of nest site selection; reproductive components, such as clutch size, timing of laying eggs and hatchability of eggs; survival rates; and population viability.

"We don't have evidence for really strong effects of wind power on prairie chickens or their reproduction," Sandercock said. "We have some evidence for females avoiding the turbines, but the avoidance within the home range doesn't seem to have an impact on nest site selection or nest survival."

The results are somewhat surprising, especially because similar studies have shown that oil and gas development affect prairie chickens, Sandercock said. With wind power development, the researchers had the unexpected result of female survival rates increasing after wind turbines were installed, potentially because wind turbines may keep predators away from nest sites. Female mortality rates are highest during the breeding season because females are more focused on protecting clutches than avoiding predators, Sandercock said.

"What's quite typical for these birds is most of the demographic losses are driven by predation. We can say that with confidence," Sandercock said. "What's a little unclear from our results is whether that increase in female survivorship was due to the effects of wind turbines on predators."

The researchers also found that conservation management practices seem to have the strongest effect on the birds, Sandercock said. Prairie chickens are ground-nesting birds and need adequate cover for their nests to survive. Grazing and fire management practices can affect how much nesting cover is available for chickens.

"A lot of what drives nest survival is the local conditions around the nest," Sandercock said. "Do they have good nesting cover or not? Our results are important because they suggest ways for mitigation."

The team is conducting follow-up studies to test mitigation strategies that may improve habitat conditions for prairie chickens. They are in their third season in a field study of patch burn grazing in Chase County and how it affects prairie chickens and grassland songbirds. Patch-burn grazing involves dividing a pasture into three parts and burning a third of the pasture each year. The practice creates a rotation basis so that each third of a pasture rests for two years. Preliminary data shows that patch-burn grazing seems to provide enough cover for ground-nesting birds, Sandercock said.

Collaborators on the wind development project include Samantha Wisely, associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida; Virginia Winder, assistant professor of biology at Benedictine College; Lance McNew, 2010 doctoral graduate in biology and research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey at the Alaska Science Center; Andrew Gregory, 2011 doctoral graduate in biology and postdoctoral scholar at Northern Arizona University; and Lyla Hunt, master's student in biology, Riverside, Calif.

The Grassland Community Collaborative Oversight Committee of the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative oversaw the research project. The project received funding from a variety of sources including the U.S. Department of Energy; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism; the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; and The Nature Conservancy.

The final project report can be viewed at http://www.osti.gov/bridge/product.biblio.jsp?osti_id=1080446.

Brett Sandercock | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.k-state.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Foxes in the city: citizen science helps researchers to study urban wildlife
14.12.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

nachricht Machine learning helps predict worldwide plant-conservation priorities
04.12.2018 | Ohio State University

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>