I know. Another wind farm. I love ’em. The UK is amongst the windiest countries in Europe, so we might as well take advantage and get something out of it. In the right place, wind turbines can be a brilliant source of cheap renewable energy with very little impact on wildlife. In the wrong place, they can be a disaster, and that’s why it’s always nice to be asked to get involved. The data I provide on vegetation is usually used to refine the scheme layout and avoid sensitive areas, and this site is no exception.
In Scotland, the Water Framework Directive is taken rather more seriously than in England and Wales. Planning authorities often ask for an assessment of how a windfarm will affect groundwater-dependent terrestrial ecosystems (GWDTEs). Sometimes groundwater-dependent habitats are easy to identify – when the geological conditions are right, hillsides may be covered in spring lines with obvious flushes coming from them – but sometimes it’s quite difficult. SEPA have produced a guide to identifying possible GWDTE using NVC communities. And that’s where I come in.
I carried out NVC survey of all wetland habitats within 300m of the proposed infrastructure – in this case, four turbines, an access track, compound and access from the main road – to provide a detailed description and map of the vegetation and identify any potential GWDTE. This was sent to my client so that their hydrogeologist could take my data and combine this with geological information to decide how sensitive each wetland would be and recommend appropriate measures to avoid or mitigate potential impacts. Fortunately, most of the wetlands at this site were associated with blanket peat, which is generally considered to be rain-fed rather than connected with groundwater, so it looks like GWDTE are unlikely to be a major concern for the planners.
Bogs at the site are cattle grazed and the vegetation is currently in relatively poor condition compared to other bogs in the local area. However, I’m sure the planners will still want to see measures in place to avoid and minimise effects on blanket peat with a view to future restoration of the blanket bog habitat.