Assessing vulnerability of marine bird populations to offshore wind farms

TitleAssessing vulnerability of marine bird populations to offshore wind farms
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsFurness, RW, Wade, HM, Masden, EA
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Pagination56 - 66
Date Published04/2013
ISBN Number0301-4797
KeywordsAdverse effects, Collision mortality, Displacement index, Marine birds, Offshore wind farms, Population vulnerability, Renewable energy

Offshore wind farms may affect bird populations through collision mortality and displacement. Given the pressures to develop offshore wind farms, there is an urgent need to assess population-level impacts on protected marine birds. Here we refine an approach to assess aspects of their ecology that influence population vulnerability to wind farm impacts, also taking into account the conservation importance of each species. Flight height appears to be a key factor influencing collision mortality risk but improved data on flight heights of marine birds are needed. Collision index calculations identify populations of gulls, white-tailed eagles, northern gannets and skuas as of particularly high concern in Scottish waters. Displacement index calculations identify populations of divers and common scoters as most vulnerable to population-level impacts of displacement, but these are likely to be less evident than impacts of collision mortality. The collision and displacement indices developed here for Scottish marine bird populations could be applied to populations elsewhere, and this approach will help in identifying likely impacts of future offshore wind farms on marine birds and prioritising monitoring programmes, at least until data on macro-avoidance rates become available.