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Assessing the potential impact of wind turbines on the endangered Galapagos Petrel Pterodroma phaeopygia at San Cristóbal Island, Galapagos

Abstract

We evaluated the collision risk of Galapagos Petrels Pterodroma phaeopygia with a wind energy development recently constructed in the highlands of San Cristóbal Island, Galapagos. Trained observers recorded the movements of petrels at dusk and dawn from the wind project site, and from control sites located along ravines that host nesting colonies. Collision mortality was also assessed by monitoring circular plots and transect lines located under human-made structures. Petrel flight activity showed a bimodal pattern, with the majority of the movements recorded in the hours previous to sunrise. Most petrels (96%) moved along major ravines that descend from the highlands to the south–southeastern coast of the island. Significant differences in passage rates were found between the project and control sites, with only five petrels recorded on the site selected for turbine installation. Although our data suggest that wind farms will not be more detrimental to petrels than other existing man-made structures, a word of caution is made because even very low levels of additional mortality might be significant for a species with such low productivity and slow maturation rates. Moreover, some other possible indirect effects on habitat change and disturbance might occur that were not assessed in our study. A post-construction monitoring program should be implemented to adequately assess long-term effects on petrels and to enable these uncertainties to be satisfactorily addressed.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all the staff at the Charles Darwin Foundation for providing facilities to conduct this study, and particularly to Priscila Ramos, Stalin Llerena, Renzo Betancourt, Diego Badillo, and Pablo Díaz, who collaborated in the observations of nocturnal flight patterns, as well as Efrén Torres, who collaborated in petrel nest monitoring. We also would like to thank the Galapagos National Park Service for its continuous support and guidance during the field work, and particularly to the ranger Rafael Díaz. We are also grateful to Tatiana Santander, Tjitte de Vries, Pierre Lamothe and Claude Tessièr for their contributions to the design of the research methodology and their suggestions related to management implications. Vicki L. Friesen made interesting comments on a previous version of the manuscript. Finally, special thanks to the e8 Fund, which provided the financial support for the study, under the technical supervision of Peter Leonard, Jim Tolan and Luis Vintimilla.

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Correspondence to José A. González.

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Cruz-Delgado, F., Wiedenfeld, D.A. & González, J.A. Assessing the potential impact of wind turbines on the endangered Galapagos Petrel Pterodroma phaeopygia at San Cristóbal Island, Galapagos. Biodivers Conserv 19, 679–694 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-009-9727-y

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Keywords

  • Collision risk
  • Flight patterns
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Galapagos Petrel
  • Wind turbines