New research into marine renewables
New insights on seabird behaviour and best practice methods for licensing will help government and industry better understand the implications of marine renewables on seabirds.
The papers, which have been produced through the Scottish Government’s Scottish Marine Research Energy Programme (ScotMER) used a mixture of new analyses, modelling and GPS tracking and breeding colony data.
The research provides more information about seabirds including their behaviour at sea, improved estimates of their survival rates and better understanding of the links between habitats and breeding colonies. This will inform new guidance on seabird population analysis and map how sensitive certain populations can be to potential offshore wind locations.
As a result of this new research:
- There is increased understanding of seabird habitat use and how the potential impacts at proposed windfarm sites link to seabird breeding colonies and Special Protected Areas
- The accuracy of important parameters including bird flight height, flight speed and the influence of body mass on survival rates has been improved
- Best practice methods and guidance have been produced to help planners, developers and advisors understand how Seabird Population Visibility Analysis (PVA) should be used in different scenarios for improved estimates of seabird population projections
Scotland’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said:
“This new research is helping us understand how we can expand our offshore renewables industry in a way that also protects and enhances the marine environment.
“Renewable energy will play a central role in Scotland’s energy strategy, the stimulation and sustaining of a green recovery in the aftermath of the economic shock created by COVID-19, and our transition to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.
“These are key drivers for why we want to harness our fantastic natural resources, which are the envy of many other nations, through creating energy, jobs and unlocking increased investment in the supply chain. Crucially, though, we need to achieve these economic goals in a way that also protects and pays due regard to the wellbeing of our marine environment, which plays such an important role in making Scotland the attractive place it is to live in, work in or visit, today.
“By bringing together science, planning and environmental interests, the ScotMER programme is significantly improving the scientific evidence for decision making, facilitating transparency and efficiency in the consenting and licensing process, and supporting marine planning as we look towards our final Plan for Offshore Wind and the current ScotWind Leasing round.”
ScotMER is an initiative led by Marine Scotland that involves collaboration from industry, environmental NGOs, Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies, and other interested stakeholders, to facilitate the sustainable development of offshore renewable energy in Scottish waters.
ScotMER will publish 16 reports of the summer including five on seabirds.
The first three reports published on 28 July are:
- Attributing seabirds at sea to appropriate breeding colonies and populations
- Improving estimates of seabird body mass survival relationships
- Scoping Study – Regional Population Viability Analysis for Key Bird Species
Two further reports will be published on 11 August, and are:
- Improving our understanding of seabird behaviour at sea using GPS tag data
- Developing a Bird Sensitivity Mapping tool – Phase 1