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Landscape features associated to wind farms increase mammalian predator abundance and ground-nest predation

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Wind farm implementation is a rapidly growing source of landscape transformation that may alter ecological processes such as predator–prey interactions. We tested the hypothesis that wind farms increase the activity of nest predators and, ultimately, increment ground-nest predation rates. We placed 18 plots in Iberian shrub-steppes (11 at control and seven at wind farm sites), each one comprised nine artificial ground-nests (three quail eggs/nest). Artificial nests were placed during two events: at the beginning (April) and at the end (June) of the breeding season in 2016 (n = 324 artificial nests). We estimated the relative abundance of avian and large mammalian predators in the surroundings of each plot and recorded nest fate after 12 days exposure. We also measured variables at landscape and microhabitat scale that potentially affect predator abundance and nest predation. Wind farm sites contained higher cover of gravel roads and more large mammalian predators. Moreover, the abundance of large mammalian predators increased with surrounding cover of both trees and gravel-roads. Avian predator abundance and nest predation rates did not differ between control and wind farm sites, though nest predation did increase with the surrounding cover of crops and gravel roads. Lastly, nest predation was higher at the end of the breeding season and decreased with moss and lichen cover. Our results support previous evidence on the increase of mammalian predator abundance as the surface area of gravel-roads increases, pointing towards a potential mechanism for wind farms leading to rise ground-nest predation. Future wind energy projects should minimize the development of gravel-roads for wind turbine access or maintenance.

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We thank Inmaculada Abril Colón and Vicente Garza for her invaluable support and collaboration during field sampling. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that helped to improve the manuscript.


This study was supported by Tragsatec—GrupoTragsa (project entitled “Effects of wind farms on Dupont’s lark nest predation”), the European Commission (Life-Ricotí project LIFE15-NAT-ES-000802) and the BBVA Foundation (BBVA-Dron Ricotí project). This paper contributes to project REMEDINAL-3 from CAM.

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JGC: Conceptualization, Methodology, Formal Analysis, Investigation and Writing—Original Draft, Visualization. AB: Conceptualization, Methodology, Investigation and Writing—Review & Editing. MR: Investigation and Writing—Review & Editing. DBR: Investigation and Writing—Review & Editing. CPG: Investigation and Writing—Review & Editing. JT: Writing—Review & Editing, Supervision, Project administration and Funding acquisition.

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Correspondence to Julia Gómez-Catasús.

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Communicated by Ailsa J. McKenzie.

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Gómez-Catasús, J., Barrero, A., Reverter, M. et al. Landscape features associated to wind farms increase mammalian predator abundance and ground-nest predation. Biodivers Conserv 30, 2581–2604 (2021).

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