Effects of overhead power-lines on the density of groundnesting birds in open sub-arctic habitats

Aldís Erna Pálsdottír, Jennifer A. Gill, Snæbjörn Pálsson, José A. Alves, Veronica Méndez, Böðvar Þórisson, Tómas G. Gunnarsson

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Yearly electricity production has increased steadily worlwide in recent decades and the associated overhead power lines are widespread and occur across urban and natural habitats, and often in remote areas where there is little other anthropogenic influence. Here we assessed the effects of overhead power lines on the density of ground-nesting birds in the Icelandic lowlands, which host several populations of international importance. The combined breeding density of the eight study species increased significantly from ~ 112 birds/km 2 close (< 50 m) to the power lines to ~ 177 birds/km 2 away (450–500 m) from the power lines, with two of these species (Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus and Common Redshank Tringa totanus) increasing significantly with distance from power lines and six species (European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis, Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, Dunlin Calidris alpina and Redwing Turdus iliacus) showing no changes. These findings suggest that power lines can influence the breeding density of ground-nesting bird species in their vicinity and that accounting for such effects when planning future infrastructure will be imperative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1257-1264
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Early online date19 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • anthropogenic change
  • biodiversity
  • conservation
  • power lines
  • transmission lines
  • waders

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