Quantifying the likely effects of offshore wind farms on wildlife is fundamental before permission for development can be granted by any Determining Authority. The effects on marine top predators from displacement from important habitat are key concerns during offshore wind farm construction and operation. In this respect, we present evidence for no significant displacement from a UK offshore wind farm for two broadly distributed species of conservation concern: common guillemot (Uria aalge) and harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). Data were collected during boat‐based line transect surveys across a 360 km2 study area that included the Robin Rigg offshore wind farm. Surveys were conducted over 10 years across the preconstruction, construction, and operational phases of the development. Changes in guillemot and harbor porpoise abundance and distribution in response to offshore wind farm construction and operation were estimated using generalized mixed models to test for evidence of displacement. Both common guillemot and harbor porpoise were present across the Robin Rigg study area throughout all three development phases. There was a significant reduction in relative harbor porpoise abundance both within and surrounding the Robin Rigg offshore wind farm during construction, but no significant difference was detected between the preconstruction and operational phases. Relative common guillemot abundance remained similar within the Robin Rigg offshore wind farm across all development phases. Offshore wind farms have the potential to negatively affect wildlife, but further evidence regarding the magnitude of effect is needed. The empirical data presented here for two marine top predators provide a valuable addition to the evidence base, allowing future decision making to be improved by reducing the uncertainty of displacement effects and increasing the accuracy of impact assessments.
Responses of Two Marine Top Predators to an Offshore Wind Farm
Title: Responses of Two Marine Top Predators to an Offshore Wind Farm
November 01, 2017
Journal: Ecology and Evolution
Mclean, N.; Grellier, K.; Vallejo, G.; Nelson, E.; McGregor, R.; Canning, S.; Caryl, F. (2017). Responses of Two Marine Top Predators to an Offshore Wind Farm. Ecology and Evolution, 7(21), 8698-8708.