Environmental scientists from Nottingham Trent University have, for the first time, mapped the extent of known wind farm infrastructure, such as wind turbines and vehicle tracks, on recognized blanket peatlands in Europe.
Cover bogs, a rare type of peat bog commonly found in areas with high rainfall and low temperatures, are typically found on hilltops where wind energy potential is greatest, making them attractive sites for development. development of wind farms.
They have a range of beneficial ecosystem services, improving water quality and water storage and biodiversity. However, a large proportion of blanket bogs are already in unfavorable condition, according to reports from the EU Habitats Directive.
The study, published in scientific reportsrevealed more than 640 wind turbines in blanket peatlands across the European Union and the United Kingdom, as well as more than 250km of vehicle access roads.
Peatland environments are the largest terrestrial carbon stock on Earth and act as a natural carbon sink when in pristine or restored condition, helping to mitigate climate change. While their habitat covers less than 3% of the planet’s land surface, peatlands account for more than a quarter of all terrestrial carbon.
Cover marshes have been compromised by anthropogenic pressures such as peat extraction for fuel and horticulture, forestry, overgrazing, drainage, burning for recreational activities, and human infrastructure for centuries.
Wind farm developments are a modern threat to these ecosystems, and their installation on blanket peatlands poses particular threats to peatland hydrology, ground-level climatic conditions, habitat biodiversity, and carbon storage.
Researchers at Nottingham Trent University argue that while promoting renewable energy is a priority, establishing wind farms on peat bogs in search of greener energy could actually be undermining the green energy transition.
The study assessed the extent of wind farm developments on blanket peat bogs recognized by the EU Habitats Directive. This directive guarantees the conservation of a wide range of rare, threatened or endemic animal and plant species.
This Directive obliges each member state to report every six years on the state of conservation of this habitat and, when necessary, encourage and implement restoration actions to improve the quality and state of conservation.
“Our research reports for the first time on the current known extent of wind farm developments on blanket peatlands across the EU and the UK,” said lead researcher Dr Guaduneth Chico, a scientist in the School of Animal Sciences. , Rural and Environmental Studies from Nottingham Trent University.
He said: “The potential long-term damage to this habitat is still unclear, but evidence supports the negative impacts of wind farm developments on this critical habitat. Cover marshes represent a particularly vulnerable habitat, the study of which should be prioritized with the aim of protecting and restoring by reviewing the national inventories of this habitat throughout Europe.
“A number of unrecognized blanket bogs have also recently been identified across the EU, highlighting the lack of understanding and consequently adequate protection of this important habitat. This study was unable to consider them, so it is possible that the problems we identify are worse than we think. we have been able to consider here. There is an urgent need to assess the impacts of wind farms on peatlands of all types to ensure that efforts to meet energy targets do not endanger the environment,” added Dr Chico.
In Europe, the most important and extensive blanket bogs are found in the British Isles, with some presence in Norway, France, Austria, Sweden, Spain and Portugal (Azores Islands).
Guaduneth Chico et al, The extent of wind farm infrastructures in recognized European blanket peatlands, scientific reports (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-30752-3. www.nature.com/articles/s41598-023-30752-3
Provided by Nottingham Trent University
Citation: Researchers Warn of ‘Urgent’ Need to Understand Impact of Wind Farms on Precious Peatlands (23 March 2023) Accessed 23 March 2023 at https://phys.org/news/2023-03 -urgent-impact-farms-precious-peatlands.html
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