Quantifying the differences in avian attack rates on reptiles between an infrastructure and a control site

Cameron Law, Lesley T. Lancaster, Jeanette Hall, Sam Handy, Mike Hinchliffe, Clare O’Brien, Katie O’Brien, Sam Watts, David O'Brien* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Increased demand for renewable energy has led to growth in the use of land for electricity generation and associated infrastructure. Land-based wind farms are amongst the commonest generators of renewable energy. To date, most research on the effects of wind farms on wildlife have focussed on birds and bats, with very little work on terrestrial taxa. We hypothesised that widely reported negative effects of wind farms on predatory birds might benefit potential prey species. We focussed on reptiles due to concerns over worldwide declines in this group. We compared avian attack rates on clay model snakes at a site in Caithness UK within a wind farm relative to a control site of the same topography and habitat class, 1 km away, using life-sized clay models of adder Vipera berus, a widespread but declining Palaearctic species. Attack rates at the control site were comparable with similar studies elsewhere in Europe. However, we found that attack rates were lower within wind farm arrays, although several species of bird known to prey on reptiles were observed both within the wind farm and the control site. Therefore, given the high rate of loss to avian predators experienced in reptile reintroduction and reinforcement projects, wind farm sites may offer safe-havens, representing a neglected opportunity in reptile conservation. Grazing by sheep severely offset this benefit, presumably through removal of plant cover which was apparent in those areas of the wind farm where sheep were allowed access; grazing must thus be managed carefully for these benefits to be realised.
Original languageEnglish
Article number54
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Wildlife Research
Volume66
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • Infrastructure
  • Sheep grazing
  • Renewable energy
  • Wind farm
  • Clay model
  • Viper

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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