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A predictive flight-altitude model for avoiding future conflicts between an emblematic raptor and wind energy development in the Swiss Alps

Citation

Vignali, Sergio et al. (2022), A predictive flight-altitude model for avoiding future conflicts between an emblematic raptor and wind energy development in the Swiss Alps, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m63xsj43g

Abstract

Deployment of wind energy is proposed as a mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, wind energy and large birds, notably soaring raptors, both depend on suitable wind conditions. Conflicts in airspace use may thus arise between wind energy development and wildlife protection due to the risks of collisions of birds with the blades of wind turbines. Using locations of GPS-tagged bearded vultures, a rare scavenging raptor reintroduced into the Alps, we built a spatially-explicit model to predict potential areas of conflict with future wind turbines deployments in the Swiss Alps. We modelled the probability of bearded vultures flying within or below the rotor-swept zone of wind turbines as a function of wind and environmental conditions, including food supply (presence of wild ungulates). Flight activity at potential risk of collision was generally high, concentrating on south-exposed mountainsides, especially in areas where ibex carcasses have a high occurrence probability, with critical areas covering vast expanses throughout the Swiss Alps. Our model provides a spatially-explicit decision tool that will guide authorities and energy companies for planning the deployment of wind farms in a proactive manner to reduce risk to emblematic Alpine wildlife.

Methods

Methods are described in the related work. The dataset contains the variables necessary to recreate the analysis, including:

  • landcover: land cover
  • geology
  • chamois: probability of chamois occurrence
  • eastness
  • ibex: probability of ibex occurrence
  • northness
  • slope_unev: slope unevenness
  • slope
  • tpi: Topographic Position Index
  • windspeed: wind speed
  • target: Boolean value to for GPS locations collected above (0) or below (1) 200 m a.g.l.
  • bird: unique identifier for bird
  • fold_id: fold number to run the spatial block cross validation