Supporting Professional Development: Understanding the potential Ecohydrological Impacts of Upland Wind Farms

Supporting Professional Development: Understanding the potential Ecohydrological Impacts of Upland Wind Farms

Understanding how changes in hydrology can affect Ground Water Dependent Terrestrial Ecosystems (GWDTEs) is critical to robustly assessing impacts of development on upland habitats.

This is a particularly important issue for upland wind farms, and a training day was organised for BSG Ecology staff in November 2021 to explore the topic in detail.

The training covered a lot of ground, including:

  • Establishing how ecohydrological receptors, such as GWDTEs and peat respond to stresses such as excess water and drought conditions
  • How conceptual models can be applied to aid understanding of how upland wetland habitats such as hilltop and hillslope blanket mire and spring fed flushes ‘work’
  • Considering how typical wind farm infrastructure such as tracks, interception ditches, turbine bases and crane pads can affect these ecosystems through changes to hydrology
  • Impact avoidance and mitigation
  • Predicting and assessing the significance of ecohydrological impacts

The training was delivered by Dr Rob Low who has a doctorate in Hydrogeology and considerable professional experience both as a hydroecologist specialising in groundwater resources and in wetland ecohydrology. Rob was able to draw on his own project experience and research to demonstrate how impacts had been mitigated at sites such as Pen y Cymoedd wind farm, and how a new drainage ditch had affected the hydrological regime of a high quality area of peatland in upland Powys.

The training was extremely useful to all of our staff, and will allow us to consider the potential impacts on habitats caused by changes in hydrology due site infrastructure from initial data collection throughout the design process. We were also delighted to be joined for it by a number of our wind farm clients, all of whom were very interested in the content.

Kirsty Rogers (Senior Ecologist) said “After attending the ecohydrological training I feel better equipped to understand how impacts can potentially be avoided through wind farm design, and the questions to ask of the project hydrologist to ensure that the ecological assessment is as robust as possible

 

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