'Predator' wind farms upset the food chain

Snow is seen on the San Gorgonio Mountains behind a windmill farm in Palm Springs California

They are the latest top predator in our ecosystem: the wind turbine.

After testing, the lizards near the turbines were found to have lower levels of a stress hormone - something that must have emerged in the two decades since wind farms were built in the Western Ghats.

The areas where wind turbines are operational have fewer predatory birds (for example, Buteo, Butastur and Elanus species), which consequently, but have a higher density of lizards, such as Sarada superba.

The raptors' prey, fan-throated lizards - small, colourful reptiles that the birds prey on - increased in number and showed altered behaviour, physiology and even less-flamboyant body colours.

The study was done in the Chalkewadi plateau in Satara district in the northern Western Ghats which is the site of one of the largest and longest-running wind farms in the region.

Wind turbines are vital for sustainable power, providing cheap electricity without producing any sort of pollution.

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The change had a knock-on effect on other animals normally eaten by the birds of prey - with an overabundance of lizards in those areas. Meanwhile, they found more lizards living in wind farms than elsewhere. The usually brilliant blue and orange colours that male lizards sport were less vibrant in individuals at wind farms: not a good sign, because colour intensities aid lizards in social communication, said study according to The Hindu report. Blood samples were collected from lizards picked up from both sites - areas with wind farm and area without wind farms.

As the levels of raptors fell around the turbines, so too did the rate of predatory attacks the lizards had to deal with.

"Our central discovery is that wind turbines can act as top predators, by reducing the density and activity of birds, their prey are now released from the typical level of predation".

Professor Maria Thaker, lead author of the study, said that wind turbines are "akin" to a new "top predator".

Thaker told The Telegraph, 'Every time a top predator is removed or added, unexpected effects trickle through the ecosystem. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.

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