We work on long-term research projects and prioritised projects developing tools and applications for Environmental Impact Assessment in the offshore renewables sector. Below are a selection of projects that we are currently working on or have completed over the last few years.
Predators and prey around renewable energy developments
The PrePARED project is funded by TCE Scotland and OWEC, and led by Marine Scotland. This project aims to concurrently study marine predators and their prey during offshore wind farm development.
BioSS is developing spatial and movement models of seabirds and their prey, supported by hydrodynamic and environmental information. These models will be used to investigate how predators and prey distributions and behaviour are impacted by offshore wind farms. The models will be tested for transferability to other regions outside of the study area so that we can better understand how predator-prey dynamics are affected in human-altered landscapes.
Read more about this project in the case study Understanding the relationship between offshore wind, marine predators and prey
Ecosystem change, offshore wind, net gain and seabirds
Funded by NERC as part of the ECOWind programme, ECOWINGS is led by UKCEH as part of a consortium. The project aims to transform the existing evidence base on cumulative effects of offshore wind farms on seabird species, establish pathways for strategic compensation to ensure net gain for seabird populations and the wider marine ecosystem, and account for the projected effects of climate change.
BioSS' role is to investigate predator-prey patch dynamics and competition, assess the potential for habituation to offshore wind, and develop a toolkit for rapid assessment of cumulative impacts on seabirds.
Cumulative effects framework for key ecological receptors
The Cumulative Effects Framework (CEF) project is funded by Marine Scotland and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, and delivered by a UKCEH-led consortium. The framework assesses impacts of planned and constructed offshore renewables developments on seabirds and marine mammals over seasons, years, and multiple population scales. The project is using a consistent and transparent approach to the collation and analysis of the best available data, providing a baseline of current effects and the flexibility to add new projects to produce an updated cumulative effects assessment, for both project level and cumulative effects.
BioSS is leading on the development of an R package to run each of the modelling tools, link them together in feasible combinations, and perform a project-level or cumulative assessment.
Quantification of displacement mortality rates
The QuMR project is funded by ORJIP and delivered by a consortium led by UKCEH. The projects aims to provide more ecologically and geographically informed estimates of displacement-related mortality rates for seabird species.
BioSS is leading the emulation development of a mechanistic model of displacement (SeabORD) to study geographical variation in displacement mortality rates, and contributed to the facilitation of an expert elicitation on displacement mortality rates.
Apportioning seabirds at sea
The AppSaS project is funded by ORJIP and delivered by a consortium led by UKCEH. The project aims to reduce uncertainty in how the offshore wind sector apportions seabirds recorded during at-sea surveys. This is achieved through reviewing current approaches to apportioning and using empirical data and other evidence sources to validate the assumptions that underpin these methods, suggesting improvements to existing approaches and developing new approaches.
BioSS is leading on the incorporation of uncertainty into novel geolocator-based methods for the non-breeding season for guillemot and razorbill, and on the modelling involved in extending GPS-based breeding season apportioning tools to include lesser black-backed gulls.
Treatment of uncertainty in ornithological assessments
This project was funded by JNCC and delivered by a UKCEH-led consortium. The project team ran a series of workshops with relevant experts and stakeholders, producing a framework for how scientific uncertainty can be quantified and reduced throughout the assessment process, to facilitate the development of more precise impact estimates for offshore renewables developments.
BioSS worked with JNCC and UKCEH on the organisation and running of the workshop, and led on writing the components of the project report, including recommendations relating to apportioning, spatial modelling and population viability analysis.
Feasibility study of large-scale deployment of colour-ringing on Black-legged kittiwake
This project was funded by JNCC and delivered by a consortium led by BTO. The aim was to determine the extent to which colour-ringing can be used to obtain reliable baseline estimates of key demographic rates in kittiwake populations, to improve the realism of demographic models assessing the population impacts of offshore wind farms and reduce uncertainty around these predicted impacts.
BioSS led on the power analysis, and contributed to producing overall recommendations regarding feasibility.
Evaluating feasibility of improvements to SeabORD
This project was funded by Marine Scotland and delivered by UKCEH and BioSS. We reviewed the available data and methodologies for improving the estimation of displacement and barrier effects from offshore wind farms, and their resulting demographic consequences using the individual-based model SeabORD. We examined the possibility for improving SeabORD by (a) extending it to cover the entire breeding season, (b) improving the use of prey availability data, (c) adapting the model to work with individual offshore wind turbines, (d) improving the quantification of uncertainty, (e) developing more realistic foraging tracks, (f) development of an individual-based model for the non-breeding season and (g) incorporating uncertainty in mass-survival relationships.
BioSS led on assessing feasibility for (d), (e) and (g), and contributed to assessment of feasibility for the other elements of the report.
Impact of climate change on seabirds and potential implications for environmental assessments
This project was funded by Marine Scotland and delivered by UKCEH, BioSS, Bangor University and SeaWatch Foundation. We investigated the potential impacts of climate change on the distribution, abundance and demography of seabirds on the east coast of Scotland, and examined the integration of projected impacts into standard population viability analysis models used in assessments for offshore wind developments.
BioSS and UKCEH jointly delivered the statistical analyses of abundance and demography, with BioSS focusing on the choice of statistical methods and on the development of code.
Read the paper 'Potential climate-driven changes to seabird demography: implications for assessments of marine renewable energy development'
Read more about this project in the case study 'Climate change and seabird demography'.
Integration of collision, displacement and barrier effects (SeabORD)
Marine Scotland commissioned this project which was delivered by a consortium led by UKCEH. The project examined how seabird collision risk, displacement and barrier effects could be integrated for assessment of offshore wind developments. We developed a framework to integrate collision, displacement and barrier effects into a single overall assessment of combined impacts in a way that is internally consistent, scientifically defensible, and practically useful.
The role of BioSS was to develop a quantitative approach for translating outputs from the Stochastic Collision Risk Model (sCRM) standardised estimates of collision risk that could be used as inputs to the extended version of SeabORD that UKCEH developed within the project.
Attributing seabirds at sea to breeding colonies
This project was funded by Marine Scotland and delivered by a consortium led by UKCEH. We utilised existing GPS seabird tracking data to produce a new tool to apportion birds observed in transect surveys (i.e. ship-based and aerial surveys) to individual breeding colonies, and compared the tool against existing methods.
The role of BioSS was to lead on the development and implementation the new apportioning approach, and on the development of the tool.
Regional population viability analysis
Population Viability Analysis (PVA) is a common approach in Environmental Impact Assessments to forecast potential impacts of marine renewables on protected populations such as seabird species. There are several PVA methods available to use that vary in their complexity, data requirements and biological realism. This project was funded by Marine Scotland and delivered by UKCEH and BioSS to provide a comparative investigation of these methods for seabirds. We describing model performance, provided a set of recommendations for practitioners, and highlighted research gaps.
UKCEH and BioSS worked together closely to deliver the project, with the role of BioSS focusing on the implementation and empirical comparison of the different PVA methods.
Population viability analysis tool
This project was funded by Natural England and delivered by UKCEH and BioSS. Wedeveloped a tool for Population Viability Analysis (PVA), applicable to seabird populations at a variety of spatial scales. The tool has an interactive user interface to allow users to set-up and run their own PVA models for seabird species without the need for access to specific software.
BioSS developed the suite of R functions that provide the underlying functionality with the tool, whilst UKCEH developed the interactive user interface.
Strategic environmental assessment North Sea energy
As part of the SEANSE project, which included planning authorities in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Scotland and Denmark as project partners, Marine Scotland commissioned a case study which was delivered by a UKCEH-led consortium. We developed a strategic assessment framework to estimate potential impacts on seabirds from offshore wind development scenarios that can be applied for regional planning purposes. The project tested implementation of the framework by undertaking a demonstration strategic assessment in the Forth and Tay region of Scottish waters for five key seabird species.
The main role of BioSS was to develop and implement the approach that was used to link the tools together within the case study, and to run the Population Viability Analysis.
Fate of displaced birds
This project was funded by Marine Scotland and delivered by UKCEH, BioSS and MacArthur Green. The aim was to produce a tool to estimate the cost to individual seabirds, in terms of changes in adult survival and productivity, of displacement and barrier effects resulting from offshore renewable developments. The tool was developed for common guillemot, razorbill, Atlantic puffin, and black-legged kittiwake in the Forth/Tay region during the chick-rearing period. The tool was constructed as a MATLAB Application (SeabORD), extending and refining the initial model developed in Searle et al. (2014). The demographic rate of individual birds can be calculated, partitioned into different categories of affected individuals, including those that experience only displacement effects, only barrier effects, or both types of effect.
UKCEH and BioSS collaborated closely together on developing the revised version of seabord, with BioSS focusing on calibration of the model and developing metrics to quantify individual-level risk.
The project was commissioned by Marine Scotland and delivered by UKCEH and BioSS. The aim was to review the potential issue of turnover of individual seabirds at sea during the breeding season, and assess how this may lead abundance estimates derived from boat or aerial surveys to underestimate the total number of birds that use an area over the breeding season. We defined turnover as the total number of birds using a particular area of sea at any point during the breeding season, divided by the number of birds that will be present in that area at a particular snapshot in time, and estimated turnover rates in species for which sufficient data were available.
The main role of BioSS on the project was to develop and implement an approach for calculating metrics of turnover.
Displacement risk (SeabORD)
The project was funded by Marine Scotland and delivered by UKCEH and BioSS. The aim was to develop a mechanistic model to estimate the population consequences of displacement and barrier effects from proposed offshore wind energy developments for key species of seabirds breeding at Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in proximity to proposed Forth/Tay offshore wind farm developments. We developed the initial version of SeabORD, an individual-based model designed to estimate displacement effects for four species (black-legged kittiwakes, common guillemot, razorbill and Atlantic puffin).
UKCEH and BioSS worked closely together on the development of SeabORD, with BioSS focusing on developing a simplified version that could be used to rapidly provide approximate estimates of risk, and applying this model to the Forth/Tay SPAs.