Influence of Wind Turbines on Presence of Willet, Marbled Godwit, Wilson’s Phalarope and Black Tern, on Wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota and South Dakota
Neal D. Niemuth, Johann A. Walker, Jeffrey S. Gleason, Charles R. Loesch, Ronald E. Reynolds, Scott E. Stephens and Michael A. Erickson
The desire to find “clean” sources of energy has stimulated widespread development of wind farms to produce electricity. Unfortunately, past studies have shown that wind farms can negatively affect local bird populations. Niemuth et al. evaluated avoidance of wind turbines by waterbirds on two wind energy development sites and two reference sites in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR), an area that is famous for both waterbirds and wind. Occurrence of three species of shorebirds varied with wetland characteristics, among sites and years, and was not substantially reduced on either wind energy site, but was slightly and consistently lower on one of the wind energy sites. Their findings illustrate some of the difficulties of assessing the effects of wind development on widely dispersed species in a highly variable environment. Even though results are not conclusive, they provide direction for future evaluations of the effects of wind energy and waterbirds in the PPR and provide assurance that extensive conservation programs in the PPR can still provide benefits for waterbirds even with the presence of wind turbines.