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Evaluating anthropogenic landscape alterations as wildlife hazards, with wind farms as an example
- Law, Peter R., Fuller, Mark
- Ecological indicators 2018 v.94 pp. 380-385
- ecology, environmental indicators, landscapes, risk, wildlife, wind farms
- Anthropogenic alterations to landscape are indicators of potential compromise of that landscape’s ecology. We describe how alterations can be assessed as ‘hazards’ to wildlife through a sequence of three steps: diagnosing the means by which the hazard acts on individual organisms at risk; estimating the fitness cost of the hazard to those individuals and the rate at which that cost occurs; and translating that cost rate into a demographic cost by identifying the relevant demographically-closed population. We exploit the conservation-oriented literature on wind farms to illustrate this conceptual scheme. For wind farms, the third component has received less attention than the first two, which suggests it is the most challenging of the three components. A wind farm provides an example of a ‘spatially localized hazard’, i.e., a discrete alteration of landscape hazardous to some population but of which there are some individuals that do not interact directly with the hazard themselves but nevertheless suffer a reduction in fitness in terms of their contribution to the next generation. Spatially localized hazards are identified via the third component of the scheme and are of particular conservation concern as, by their nature, their depredations on wildlife may be underestimated without an appropriate population-level estimation of the demographic cost of the hazard.