Wind energy expansion and birds: Identifying priority areas for impact avoidance at a national level

Fabio Balotari-Chiebao, Andrea Santangeli, Sirke Piirainen, Patrik Byholm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Wind energy can harm birds through collision mortality, displacement, barrier to movements, and habitat loss or degradation with largely unknown consequences for their populations. Impact avoidance via appropriate site selection is the most effective means for preventing or alleviating damage from wind energy. Appropriate site selection requires a knowledge of landscape priorities. Here, we used a Spatial Conservation Prioritisation software to identify priority areas for bird conservation in relation to onshore wind energy in Finland, providing spatial guidance for impact avoidance at the national level. We showed that high bird priority areas are mainly concentrated in coastal and adjacent areas, thus entailing marked regional differences and responsibilities. Only a fraction of high priority areas (e.g., 15 % of 10 % top priority areas) is under some level of protection, indi-cating that the network of protected areas should be expanded to safeguard sensitive species. We found that the west coast, in particular, concentrates potential conflicts between birds and wind energy due to the co -occurrence of high priority areas and extensive wind energy development regionally. Thus, focusing conserva-tion action away from areas already extensively targeted by wind energy cannot meet the conservation needs of many sensitive species, some of which occur exclusively or mainly in coastal areas. We recommend that birds be protected by avoiding construction in high priority areas and conducting careful spatial planning in coastal and potentially high conflict areas. Our results can contribute to bird conservation schemes, while addressing the pressing issue of biodiversity protection in the context of energy transition.
Original languageEnglish
Article number109851
JournalBiological Conservation
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • biodiversity
  • renewable energy
  • human-wildlife conflicts
  • zonation
  • spatial planning

Field of science

  • Environmental sciences


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