Sensitivity mapping informs mitigation of bird mortality by collision with high-voltage power lines

Jean-Yves Paquet, Kristijn Swinnen, Antoine Derouaux, Koen Devos, Dominique Verbelen

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Mapping the relative risk of impact on nature by a human infrastructure at a landscape scale (“sensitivity mapping”) is an essential tool for minimising the future impact of new development or for prioritising mitigation of existing impacts. High-voltage power lines (“transmission lines”) are known to increase bird mortality by collision. Here we present a method to derive a high resolution map of relative risk of transmission line impacts across one entire country, Belgium, from existing bird distribution data. First, all the bird species observed in Belgium were systematically assessed using literature and casualty records to select those to be included in the sensitivity map. Species were selected on the basis of their intrinsic susceptibility to collision and the conservation relevance of avoiding additional mortality for that species in Belgium. Each of the selected species was included in one or several spatial layer constructed from existing data, emerging from citizen science bird monitoring schemes. The resulting 17 layers were then combined into one final sensitivity map, where a “risk score” estimates the relative collision risk across Belgium at a 1×1 km resolution. This risk score is relatively robust to the subtraction of any of the 17 layers. The map identifies areas where building new transmission lines would create high risk of collision and, if overlapped with existing power lines, helps to prioritise spans where mitigation measures should be placed. Wetlands and river valleys stand out as the most potentially dangerous areas for collision with transmission lines. This sensitivity map could be regularly updated with new bird data or adapted to other countries where similar bird data are available.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-233
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 25-Mar-2022

Thematic List 2020

  • Wildlife management
  • Nature & society

Cite this