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Updates on BBI's current projects and news that relates to BBI's goals and interests.

New research project in Valais, Switzerland

Announcement from Universität Bern – November 8th 2018:

(Article provided by Prof. Dr Raphaël Arlettaz, Head of the division of Conservation Biology - translated from French/German)

“With the help of the world specialist of Golden Eagles, Dr. Peter Bloom, who traveled especially from California, Golden Eagles will be captured and equipped with GPS tags to track their every move.

The data collected will be used to better define implantation sites of any future wind farms in the Alps, in order to avoid the risk of bird collisions with blades.

In order to preserve our climate, the transition to an economy based on renewable resources is a necessity. Some ‘green’ electricity modes of production however, can cause increased biodiversity risks. Birds and bats pay the price when they collide with the blades of wind turbines.

The construction of wind farms in the Alpine region poses a potential threat to the fauna of the area, in particular for large birds such as Golden Eagles or Bearded Vultures. Both species are long-lived and have a low rate of reproduction, any loss could have dramatic repercussions for the future of their populations.

The reintroduction program of Bearded Vultures in the Alps is considered one of the world’s most successful reintroduction programs.  It would be tragic if green energy destroyed this success, taking a toll on these magnificent birds of prey, especially as they provide a first-class health service in our mountains.

For this reason, the siting of future wind farms in the Alpine area must be planned very carefully. The topographical areas where large birds of prey are more frequent will have to be avoided. To be able to clearly define these zones, researchers at the University of Bern want a spatial usage map to work out a kind of ‘3D model’ of the airspace, from the ground up to about 200m height, at which it is possible to see exactly the areas most used by the birds (e.g., mountain ridges with thermally favorable conditions, etc.). The intention is to prevent wind turbines from being built there.

 There is already extensive data for the Bearded Vulture, as several animals in the past have been equipped with satellite and GPS transmitters. However, such information is still missing for the Golden Eagle in Switzerland. In order to close this knowledge gap, researchers are currently pursuing two approaches:

  •  The first uses high-performance binoculars that can view a bird in the sky and get precise coordinates of its geolocation (latitude, longitude and altitude). These field surveys began throughout the canton in April 2018 and will continue until the end of March 2019.

  • The other technique will be to capture and tag Golden Eagles with GPS tags. The catching campaign is currently underway in the canton, and all necessary permits have been granted. In support of this project, we are collaborating with Dr. Peter Bloom, one of the world’s most renowned specialist of the Golden Eagle, who came especially to Valais, to assist researchers and allow them the benefit of his extensive experience.”

 From left to right: Stéphane Mettaz (field technician University of Bern), Dr. Peter Bloom, Ron Milgalter (doctoral student at the University of Bern).

From left to right: Stéphane Mettaz (field technician University of Bern), Dr. Peter Bloom, Ron Milgalter (doctoral student at the University of Bern).

 A Golden Eagle photographed above Conthey (copyright R. Arlettaz).

A Golden Eagle photographed above Conthey (copyright R. Arlettaz).