Wired: impacts of increasing power line use by a growing bird population

Francisco Moreira, Vitor Encarnação, Gonçalo Rosa, Nathalie Gilbert, Samuel Infante, Julieta Costa, Marcello D’Amico, Ricardo C Martins, Inês Catry

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Power lines are increasingly widespread across many regions of the planet. Although these linear infrastructures are known for their negative impacts on bird populations, through collision and electrocution, some species take advantage of electricity pylons for nesting. In this case, estimation of the net impact of these infrastructures at the population level requires an assessment of trade-offs between positive and negative impacts. We compiled historical information (1958–2014) of the Portuguese white stork Ciconia ciconia population to analyze long-term changes in numbers, distribution range and use of nesting structures. White stork population size increased 660% up to 12000 breeding pairs between 1984 and 2014. In the same period, the proportion of nests on electricity pylons increased from 1% to 25%, likely facilitated by the 60% increase in the length of the very high tension power line grid (holding the majority of the nests) in the stork's distribution range. No differences in breeding success were registered for storks nesting on electricity pylons versus other structures, but a high risk of mortality by collision and electrocution with power lines was estimated. We discuss the implications of this behavioral change, and of the management responses by power line companies, both for stork populations and for managers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number024019
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number2
Early online date26 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2017

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