Great skua (Stercorarius skua) movements at sea in relation to marine renewable energy developments

H.M. Wade, E.A. Masden, C.B. Thaxter, N.H.K. Burton, W. Bouten, R.W. Furness

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Abstract

Marine renewable energy developments (MREDs) are an increasing feature of the marine environment. Owing to the relatively small number of existing developments and the early stage of their associated environmental monitoring programmes, the effects of MREDs on seabirds are not fully known. Our ability to fully predict potential effects is limited by a lack of knowledge regarding movements of seabirds at sea. We used GPS tracking to improve our understanding of the movements at sea of a protected seabird species breeding in Scotland, the great skua (Stercorarius skua), to better predict how this species may be affected by MREDs. We found that the overlap of great skuas with leased and proposed MREDs was low; particularly with offshore wind sites, which are predicted to present a greater risk to great skuas than wave or tidal-stream developments. Failed breeders overlapped with larger areas of MREDs than breeding birds but the overall overlap with core areas used remained low. Overlap with wave energy development sites was greater than for offshore wind and tidal-stream sites. Comparison of 2011 data with historical data indicates that distances travelled by great skuas have likely increased over recent decades. This suggests that basing marine spatial planning decisions on short-term tracking data could be less informative than longer-term data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-80
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Volume101
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2014

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Keywords

  • Environmental impact
  • GPS
  • Scotland
  • bio-logging
  • marine spatial planning
  • marine conservation
  • remote sensing
  • seabirds
  • wave power
  • wind power

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