A new study was published under the REN Chair on Biodiversity on how Bonelli's eagle (Aquila fasciata) uses the space surrounding power transmission lines. The goal was to understand the impact of power lines on the habitat of species such as this one, to mitigate the risks to the animals.
For the study, which was developed in the Algarve mountains, GPS-PTT tracking data of seventeen adult eagles were used to model the intensity of space usage in relation to the distance from transmission and distribution lines, with other habitat characteristics relevant for this species also being considered.
The results showed that, at the population level (set of individuals), eagles increased the intensity of space usage in the proximity of power lines (up to 1000 m), suggesting an attraction effect.
Individually, a few eagles shared the general attraction pattern of the population, while others showed reduced intensity of space usage in the vicinity of the lines. These different responses were influenced by the characteristics of the power grid, with a tendency for the perceived attraction to be linked to individuals occupying territories with a denser network of transmission lines. However, other potentially influencing factors cannot be ruled out, such as individual idiosyncrasies, the spatial distribution of prey availability, the availability of natural perches and nesting sites, or the fact that some existing lines have been planned to avoid areas with known occurrence of the species.
Overall, these results suggest that power lines may generate different behaviours and have differential impacts between individuals, those attracted by the proximity of lines potentially facing higher mortality risk from electrocution (on distribution lines only) and collision (although records of this mortality factor are very scarce), and those avoiding power lines potentially subject to exclusionary effects.
These results reinforce the need to understand individual variables when assessing and mitigating the impacts of these infrastructures.
To learn more about this study, see the full publication here.
About REN Chair in Biodiversity
The REN Chair on Biodiversity was created in July 2015, in the context of a protocol established between CIBIO - Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos da Universidade do Porto [Biodiversity and Genetic Resources Research Centre of the University of Porto], REN - Redes Energéticas Nacionais, and FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia [Foundation for Science and Technology]. It seeks to develop a scientific research and knowledge transfer programme at the University of Porto, in the topic of the impact of power lines on biodiversity.
The characterisation and understanding of the negative and positive impacts of Very-High-Voltage Lines (VHVL), the evaluation of the effectiveness of measures to minimise and offset impacts, and the identification of management practices that maximise positive impacts are the main research lines of the Chair.
In addition to its scientific component, the REN Chair also provides scientific counsel to REN through advice and support in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies and in the use of biological and technical data collected by REN over the last 15 years.