Offshore Renewable Developments (ORDs) can make a significant contribution to the Scottish Government’s target to generate 50% of overall energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030, but there is a requirement on Scottish Government to deliver them in a sustainable manner in accordance with the requirements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (EC/2008/56), the Habitats Directive (EC/92/43) and the Birds Directive (EC/79/409). Offshore renewable developments have the potential to affect seabirds that are protected by the EU Birds Directive, and transposed domestic legislation, notably from collisions with turbine blades and through displacement from important habitat.
A key current concern is that Population Viability Analyses that are the standard method of forecasting future population change of seabirds as part of ORD assessments, do not account for any effects of environmental change on populations. However, many seabird species in the UK have shown marked declines in recent decades and there is widespread evidence that these are in part caused by changes in marine ecosystems as a result of climate change. Climate change can affect seabird populations indirectly via changes in food supply, or directly such as through mortality from extreme weather.
In this project, we examined the potential impacts of climate change by quantifying the effects of climate on seabird distribution, abundance and demography. We developed future estimates for the spatial distribution and abundance at seabird foraging areas and for demographic rates, abundance, and the influence of varying foraging ranges at seabird breeding colonies on access to suitable climate conditions.