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Publication - Research and analysis

Development of a seabird sensitivity mapping tool for Scotland: final report

Published: 11 Aug 2020

Development and demonstration of a tool to estimate the relative sensitivities of protected seabird populations to offshore licensed activities.

11 Aug 2020
Development of a seabird sensitivity mapping tool for Scotland: final report

The Scottish Government is committed to increasing the production of electricity from renewable sources, with a target of generating 100% of Scotland’s electricity requirements from renewable sources by 2020. The marine environment offers considerable potential for harvesting renewable energy, through wind, wave and tidal stream energy generators. However, the Scottish Government is also committed to protecting the natural environment from adverse impacts. To do this requires identifying important areas used by wildlife, particularly protected species such as many seabirds breeding and residing in the UK.

Offshore renewable developments (ORDs) have the potential to affect seabird populations through direct collisions with infrastructure, displacement from foraging habitat, barrier effects (whereby birds must fly around infrastructure to reach foraging grounds), and by noise and contamination. These potential effects are thought to be particularly important for breeding seabirds that are constrained to obtain food within a certain distance from their breeding colony in order to successfully rear their offspring. A critical part of assessing and potentially alleviating these concerns for seabirds is developing a better understanding for how the sensitivity of seabirds to ORD activities varies spatially and at different times of the year. 

This project was led by CEH, funded by Marine Scotland, and managed by the Carbon Trust under ORJIP Offshore Wind developed and built upon existing data and methodologies to create cutting-edge estimates for these four key components for assessing spatial sensitivity of seabirds to ORDs. It allows users to estimate the source breeding colony for birds observed across all at sea locations in Scottish waters. By combining this baseline data with the most recent scoring assessments for sensitivity of seabirds to both collision and displacement effects of ORD developments, users can produce maps for seabird sensitivity to ORD developments in all Scottish waters, and for specific ORD footprints specified by the user.

The final report for phase 1 summarises the development of the first version of the tool. Under a subsequent project, phase 2, the tool will be further developed, with intension to publish the tool following completion of the phase 2 project.