The aim of this report was to review trials of high definition imagery technology in the monitoring and assessment of bird numbers at offshore sites, and produce recommendations and protocols on its use alongside existing survey methodology, notably in light of its possible use in surveying round 3 wind farm development zones. The specific objectives are therefore as follows:
- To summarise the existing high definition imagery studies that have taken place, assessing what parameters were used in each.
- To undertake a workshop bringing together key users, developers and regulators of the industry, with a view to setting protocols and standards on the use of high definition imagery technology for seabird and mammal surveys.
Information on the trials of high definition imagery technology for survey were obtained from the following institutions and organisations: HiDef Aerial Surveying Ltd (hereafter also HiDef), the Danish National Environment Research Institute (NERI), APEM Ltd, the University of St. Andrews, and the RSK Group plc. Information was collated in the form of reports and summaries on particular surveys, and was split into technical categories of digital video and digital still photography for further summarising.
At the workshop, consensus was agreed that protocols depended on the aim of the particular survey. In particular, species may vary in their detectability and thus parameters required. Furthermore, the level at which the survey is conducted will influence subsequent parameters. Levels of survey that are likely to be required are
- Characterisation to investigate what species assemblages are present, allowing population estimation and distribution, e.g. of a Round 3 development zone prior to collection of project-specific environmental baselines:
- Baseline Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to assess, understand, and take account of a wind farm’s likely environmental impacts, before a development is given consent to proceed.
- Before and After / Control and Impact Analysis (BACI) for a more detailed assessment and monitoring before and after a development requiring specific technical and survey design parameters.
- Purposes of meeting Appropriate Assessment (AA) as part of the EIA process, to obtain detailed distribution data and accurate species identification to determine loss of habitat in marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs), or likely effect on onshore SPAs.
- Common Standards Monitoring, a more detailed monitoring and a simple assessment for protected sites requiring accurate identification of species.
Parameters for which protocols could be developed include technical parameters, parameters on survey design and parameters on data analysis.