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Breeding Site Selection and Breeding Success in Red-throated Divers (Gavia stellata): Implications for Wind Power Development
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics. Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Biology Education Centre.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Our alarming rate of resource exploitation and its consequences on the environment is fuelling an increase in sustainable energy production around the world. Wind power appears to be a particularly promising energy source relative to its environmental footprint, with the exception of potential negative effects of wind power on birds. Varying results from impact assessments around the world indicate that knowledge of both abiotic and biotic factors, as well as bird behavior and ecology, is required to assess the cumulative impact of any given wind farm on local bird communities. This study aims to assess the cumulative impact of a proposed wind farm on a threatened seabird, the red-throated diver (Gavia stellata), at one of its breeding "hotspots" in Sweden: the Holmöarna islands. Measurements of environmental variables in lakes on Holmöarna are combined with breeding surveys from 2012 to 2015 to assess which environmental variables may be associated with lakes that red-throated divers do or do not breed in, and which variables are correlated with breeding success. These results are combined with a literature review to assess the potential negative effects of the proposed wind farm on the breeding population on Holmöarna. The results show that average breeding success over the survey period was 0.35 fledged young per pair per year. No difference was found in environmental variables between lakes that divers had or had not bred in. Lake area/perimeter ratio and distance to the sea were significantly negatively correlated with breeding success, although distance to the sea was only significant for lakes with at least one successful breeding attempt during the survey period. Based on these correlations, 33 of a total 40 breeding lakes are shown to have relatively high area/perimeter ratios and long distances to the sea, which may pre-dispose divers breeding within them to low breeding success. These lakes are, therefore, identified as being at high-to-moderate risk of increased breeding failure if breeding success is further reduced as a result of external factors, including that of any negative impacts of the proposed wind farm. 31 of the 40 breeding lakes are also within 1 km of the proposed wind turbine sites, which may render red-throated divers breeding within them vulnerable to displacement as a result of wind farm-related disturbance. The literature review highlights the mechanisms that may determine the cumulative impact of the wind farm on red-throated divers in terms of collision mortality, habitat displacement, and barriers to movement. The strong sensitivity of red-throated divers to disturbance is considered to be the most likely driver of any negative effects of the wind farm. In this context, I thus argue the need for a precautionary approach to planning wind power developments in the vicinity of breeding red-throated diver populations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , p. 53
Keywords [en]
Red-throated diver, Red-throated loon, Gavia stellata, wind farm, wind power, seabirds, bird ecology, Sweden, breeding
National Category
Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-314976OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-314976DiVA, id: diva2:1072426
Educational program
Master Programme in Biology
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2017-04-28 Created: 2017-02-07 Last updated: 2017-04-28Bibliographically approved

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Department of Ecology and GeneticsBiology Education Centre
Ecology

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CiteExportLink to record
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