Landsvirkjun monitors birdlife in all the affected areas of its power stations. Monitoring includes observing and counting certain bird species, bird pairs, young, eggs and nests. The objective is to assess if and how Landsvirkjun’s operations affect bird numbers and their distribution. Research and monitoring is conducted in cooperation with the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, the East Iceland Natural History Institute and the Northeast Iceland Nature Research Centre. Research reports on birdlife are released by Landsvirkjun on an annual basis.
Monitoring the affected area of the Fljótsdalur Hydropower Station
The environmental impact assessment for the Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Project revealed that monitoring birdlife in the affected area was a necessary measure. The reasons for this conclusion included the fact that approx. 500 pink-footed goose nesting areas would be submerged during the construction of the Hálslón Reservoir and the potential increase in turbidity in Lagarfljót could affect ducks that usually flock to the area during the summer period.
The greylag goose and the great skua populations were monitored between 2005 and 2013. The results revealed that the power station had not significantly affected the species. Subsequently, the pink-footed goose is the only bird species currently monitored.
Other potential effects on birdlife in the area included the lower water level in the Jökulsá í Dal River and the higher water level in the Lagarfljót River.
An increase in the pink-footed goose population in the Vesturöræfi wilderness
The main results of research and monitoring carried out in recent years shows an increase in the pink-footed goose population in the Jökulsá á Dal and Fljótsdal Rivers, despite decreases in the past. The research also suggests that the construction of the Hálslón Reservoir did not cause a reduction in the population, despite the reduction of grazing land and the fact that nesting areas have disappeared.
The decrease in nesting areas in the Vesturöræfi wilderness area in 2011 is mostly attributed to predators and the poor weather conditions in May. These are not uncommon events in goose nesting areas. The population recovered within a year and was flourishing in 2013. There was a decrease in 2014 due to heavy snow in the area. This affected the population and also led to migration between areas.
The pink-footed goose population in the east of Iceland seems to follow the same pattern as other pink- footed geese in Iceland and worldwide. Annual monitoring on the pink-footed goose will continue in order to monitor the natural progress of the population in the affected area of the Fljótsdalur Hydropower Station.
Limited impact of the station on the greylag goose population
The Fljótsdalur County has an extensive greylag-goose population: 15 to 20 thousand geese spend the summer in the area.
The main results of research and monitoring on the greylag goose population indicates a minor change to the number of greylag geese nesting and moulting areas between 2005 and 2013. However, greylag-goose nests have decreased in the Héraði area. A summary of all research data from between 2005 and 2013 shows that water transport as a result of the Fljótsdalur Hydropower Station has not had a significant effect on the greylag-goose population within the affected area. The greylag-goose population will therefore only be monitored on a 5 to 10 year basis in accordance with the prerequisites set out by the environmental impact assessment.
The effects of wind turbines on birdlife
Landsvirkjun is assessing the feasibility of constructing a wind farm in the area between Búrfell and Sultartangi within the Þjórsá area. Research on the effects of wind turbines on the area have largely focused on birdlife and have been conducted in cooperation with the Northeast Iceland Nature Research Centre.
The main environmental impact of wind turbines includes changes to the appearance of land, noise, effects on the ecosystem and particularly, on birdlife.
Research included mapping the flight patterns of birds within the Hafið area as well as an assessment of the distribution of nesting birds within the area. The results showed 46 bird breeds within the Hafið area between the 26th of March and the 21st of October, 2014, but only a percentage of these are believed to nest within the area.
Radar was set up in late March to record the flight pattern coordinates of birds within the area and to measure their altitude. Assessments were carried out during the main migratory periods in the spring and autumn. The data is used to map out the exact flight patterns of birds within the area and to calculate collision risks pertaining to the proposed wind turbines. The data is currently being assessed.
Research on wind turbines has not been conducted in Iceland until now and international guidelines are therefore used for support. These guidelines require radar monitoring on birdlife pertaining to the effects of wind turbine construction. This is the first time radar has been used in this manner in Iceland and will clearly prove useful in the future.