A delegation from MKO’s ornithology and ecology teams recently attended the Conference on Wind and Wildlife impacts (CWW) in Egmond aan Zee, Netherlands. The conference brings together a diverse range of interested parties from academics, industry representatives, environmental practitioners and government organisations with the aim of finding practical, science-led solutions to potential conflict between wind energy development and wildlife. Themes were split based on whether the topics addressed related to onshore or offshore development and included issues related to planning, species responses, uncertainty in risk assessment, cumulative population effects, mitigation and emerging challenges and solutions. While several talks addressed long-standing issues between wind energy development and wildlife, such as accurately quantifying bird flight height and spatial overlap with turbine blades, it was great to see an evolution in our approach to mitigating impacts of wind energy such as research on the sensitivity of birds to wind turbine blade contrast. Many talks showcased innovative analytical techniques, ranging from life-cycle analysis and individual-based modelling, highlighting the emphasis on better use of the data we collect and the challenges of representation of biological reality in many ‘traditional’ analytical approaches. Population impacts were also frequently on the agenda, particularly as many countries increase their wind energy capacity to meet renewable energy targets. Many talks advocated for the monitoring of population thresholds below which the population cannot fall as a means of harmonising their development and conservation goals. Cumulative impacts of climate change and renewable energy development were highlighted in one of our plenary sessions, calling for a bottom-up ecosystem monitoring approach. What was clear was that our ability to quantify the uncertainty of the impacts of wind energy on wildlife is being far out-stripped by our need to accelerate development to mitigate climate change and decrease our reliance on traditional fossil fuel sources. This is particularly the case as advances in offshore wind energy technology enables us to push development further offshore. Overall, I think we can anticipate an increase in the emphasis on mitigation for existing developments and a call for a standardised data collection approach which enables to us to quantify cumulative impacts from multiple developments, on a regional, national and biogeographic scale.

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