Project Description

The current assessment criteria for the evaluation of wind energy facilities accounting for capercaillie in the Black Forest, was published in 2012. Due to the extensive overlap of high-wind speed locations and capercaillie habitats, it is urgent from a nature protection standpoint, as well as that of an energy producer to closer examine this issue. Wind energy facilities in grouse habitats in Austria are also heatedly discussed, and further research is greatly desired. However, the complexity of this topic necessitates a large, multi-year research approach, with before and after studies. The project and research methods were developed in cooperation with grouse experts, as well as experts in different fields of research, and are currently being carried out in close contact with them.

Background - Black Forest

Outside of the alpine regions, the Black Forest is home to the largest capercaillie population in central Europe, with an estimated 500-600 individuals. Since 1971, the number of lekking cocks has been systematically recorded by local hunters (Auerwildhegegemeinschaft), which carry out yearly lekking site counts and complement these data with that available from foresters and ornithologists.

With the continued development of renewable energy in Germany, the Black Forest has earned particular renown for wind energy within Baden-Württemberg. However, the preferred habitat of capercaillie, open forests located at high altitudes, are also the most suitable sites for wind turbines. As such, this project arose in order to help reconcile the maintenance of healthy capercaillie populations with the development of wind energy in the Black Forest. 

The Project

Because so little is currently known about how capercaillies react to wind turbines and associated impacts, the goal of this project is to gain further insight on the influence of wind energy facilities on capercaillie populations. The results will be integrated into an updated version of the assessment tool “Capercaillie and Wind Power”. Based on the so-called Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) Principle, the studies will be carried out in three phases: before, during and after the construction of wind energy facilities. The study will also be carried out in control sites without wind energy, at the same time.

Project Design

The project began on July 1, 2014 and will be carried out over five years. The studies in the Black Forest, Austria and Sweden will be conducted in cooperation with numerous research partners.

Differentiated research methods will be used to study the influences of wind turbines on the spatio-temporal behavior, stress physiology, reproduction and population connectivity of capercaillies. Along with the data collection and interpretation, public relations is also of particular importance. From the beginning, the project has attempted to be open and transparent to the public. For this reason, this website has been developed and the project will be accompanied by a project advisory board.

Final results will be released in 2019, after the assembly and analysis of all elements of the results. The adaptation of the current assessment guidelines for “Capercaillie and Wind Power”, which will continue to be valid until the completion of the project, and the publication of the results will be the close of the five year project.