Renewable energy can be greener than fossil fuels, but that does not mean it does not affect the environment.
In fact, an active point of biodiversity in India has already begun to change due to the country's push to alternative energy sources.
In the western Ghats, a mountain range stretching across six Indian states along the west coast, wind farms have reduced abundance and hunting activity of raptors like raptors, according to a recent study by Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore .
As a result, they say, wind turbines create an "environment without destruction" that changes the behavior and even the form of creatures that fall below the food chain.
Among the most notable in this category is the Sarada Superba or bubble-inflated lizard.
Males of this type, found only in South Asia, have a fin under their throat that becomes intensely colored as they reach sexual maturity and use it to attract collaborators.
The area studied by the researchers was the Chalkewadi Plateau in Satara, near the Sahyadri Reserve Tiger and the Koyna Wildlife in the State of Maharashtra. This plateau had one of the largest and farthest wind parks in the area. In their study, published earlier this week in Nature Ecology & Evolution, the researchers compared the area with other protected forest areas of the neighborhood.
"The reason we chose this area is that the lizards we studied are actually the predominant prey in this landscape … And so we expect there will be some change from the predators, the lizards will experience a change. we found, "Maria Thaker, co-author of the study and assistant professor at IISc, told Quartz.
Lizard density was higher in wind turbine areas, and these lizards showed a reduced tendency to escape when approached, suggesting that they were used in an environment with fewer predators.
The reduction in aggressive attacks has led to the development of the species in the region, which in turn could lead to increased competition for food. Thaker and her team found that male lizards near wind turbines were less brightly colored than their counterparts elsewhere, probably because of the limited availability of beetles, which are of the favorite lizard foods and rich in carotenoids that help to stain . Changing coloration, researchers say, could have implications for sexual choice.
While the long-term branching of all of these is still unknown, Thaeker says that in theory there could be a sequential effect on the levels of insects and plants lower in the food chain.
This is one of the less discussed results of India's move to produce more renewable energy, which has accelerated under the Narendra Modi government. The government set an ambitious target of achieving 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022. This includes 60 GW of wind power, which fueled the rise of wind park infrastructure across India, including the western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is believed to host at least 325 threatened species of flora, fauna, birds and reptiles.
While the study focuses on a single plateau, the environmental hazards of wind farm infrastructures have been documented throughout the world, especially with regard to the reduction of birds near large turbines. Even in India, the expansion of renewable energy facilities has already been found to dramatically affect the population of the endangered Great Indian Bustard in its last remaining habitat in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
But Thacker says these results do not mean that India has to abandon wind power.
"In the choice between wind turbines and fossil fuels, wind turbines are always," he explained. "Let's be smart about where we put it. Do not put it in areas that are unique or special, or biodiversity, because we will regret it if we change these positions."
Wind turbines should be placed on buildings or areas that have already been irreversibly damaged by human activity, he suggests, instead of India's pristine forests.
Image by Ashwin Kumar on Flickr, licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0. Embedded image of Krishna Khan on Wikimedia Commons, licensed to CC BY-SA 4.0.