, Volume 756, Issue 1, pp 51–61 | Cite as

Seabird avoidance and attraction at an offshore wind farm in the Belgian part of the North Sea

  • Nicolas VanermenEmail author
  • Thierry Onkelinx
  • Wouter Courtens
  • Marc Van de walle
  • Hilbran Verstraete
  • Eric W. M. Stienen


Through before–after control-impact designed ship-based seabird surveys, seabird displacement occurring after the installation of an offshore wind farm at the Belgian Bligh Bank in 2010 was studied. Results demonstrate that northern gannet (Morus bassanus), common guillemot (Uria aalge) and razorbill (Alca torda) avoided the wind farm area, and decreased in abundance with 85, 71 and 64%, respectively. Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus) and herring gull (Larus argentatus) were attracted to the wind farm, and their numbers increased by a factor 5.3 and 9.5. Other gull species too were found to frequent the turbine-built area, most notably common gull (Larus canus), black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and great black-backed gull (Larus marinus). The ecological incentives behind the observed attraction effects are still poorly understood, but on top of the increase in roosting possibilities it is plausible that offshore wind farms offer enhanced feeding opportunities. Importantly, attraction of seabirds to offshore wind farms implies an increased collision risk.


Offshore wind farm Belgian North Sea Seabirds at sea Impact assessment BACI monitoring Zero-inflated negative binomial modelling 



First of all, we want to thank the wind farm concession holders for financing this monitoring research, as well as the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) for assigning it to us. A special word of gratitude goes out to DAB Vloot and the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) for providing monthly ship time on RV’s Zeeleeuw and Simon Stevin, and the same goes out to RBINS and the Belgian Science Policy (BELSPO) for the ship time on RV Belgica. In this respect, we also wish to thank all crew members of aforementioned RV’s for their cooperation. We kindly thank Robin Brabant, Steven Degraer and Lieven Naudts from RBINS and André Cattrijsse from VLIZ for their invaluable logistic support and cooperation throughout the monitoring program. During the early stages of the statistical processing, my colleagues Dirk Bauwens and Paul Quataert provided helpful advice. We are very grateful to all volunteers (especially Walter Wackenier who joined us every month) who assisted during the seabird counts. Finally, we wish to thank both anonymous reviewers for their highly valuable comments, and under their impulse the manuscript has evolved to a much improved version.


  1. Bernstein, B. B. & J. Zalinski, 1983. An optimum sampling design and power tests for environmental biologists. Journal of Environmental Management 16: 35–43.Google Scholar
  2. Camphuysen, C. J. & M. F. Leopold, 1994. Atlas of seabirds in the Southern North Sea. IBN research report 94/6, NIOZ report 1994–1998, INB, NIOZ & NZG, Texel.Google Scholar
  3. Croxall, J. P. & P. Rothery, 1991. Population regulation of seabirds: implications of their demography for conservation. In Perrins, C. M., J.-D. Lebreton & G. J. M. Hirons (eds), Bird Population Studies, Relevance to Conservation and Management. Oxford University, Oxford: 272–296.Google Scholar
  4. Cox, S. L., B. E. Scott & C. J. Camphuysen, 2013. Combined spatial and tidal processes identify links between pelagic prey species and seabirds. Marine Ecology Progress Series 479: 203–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Degraer, S., R. Brabant & B. Rumes (eds), 2013. Environmental Impacts of Offshore Wind Farms in the Belgian Part of the North Sea: Learning From the Past to Optimise Future Monitoring Programs. Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels.Google Scholar
  6. De Mesel, I., F. Kerckhof, B. Rumes, A. Norro, J.-S. Houziaux & S. Degraer, 2013. Fouling community on the foundations of wind turbines and the surrounding scour protection. In Degraer, S., R. Brabant & B. Rumes (eds), Environmental Impacts of Offshore Wind Farms in the Belgian Part of the North Sea: Learning From the Past to Optimise Future Monitoring Programs. Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels: 123–137.Google Scholar
  7. Depestele, J., W. Courtens, S. Degraer, J. Haelters, K. Hostens, J. -S. Houziaux, B. Merckx, H. Polet, M. Rabaut, E. W. M. Stienen, S. Vandendriessche, E. Verfaillie & M. Vincx, 2012. An integrated impact assessment of trammel net and beam trawl fisheries “WAKO II”. Final report D/2012/1191/2, Belgian Science Policy Office, Brussels.Google Scholar
  8. Dierschke, V. & S. Garthe, 2006. Literature review of offshore wind farms with regard to seabirds. In Zucco, C., W. Wende, T. Merck, I. Köchling & J. Köppel (eds), Ecological Research on Offshore Wind Farms: International Exchange of Experiences – Part B: Literature Review of Ecological Impacts. Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, Bonn: 131–198.Google Scholar
  9. Drewitt, A. L. & R. H. W. Langston, 2006. Assessing the impact of wind farms on birds. Ibis 148: 29–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Duineveld, G. C. A., M. J. N. Bergman & M. S. S. Lavaleye, 2007. Effects of an area closed to fisheries on the composition of the benthic fauna in the southern North Sea. ICES Journal of Marine Science 64: 899–908.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Embling, C. B., J. Illian, E. Armstrong, J. van der Kooij, J. Sharples, C. J. Camphuysen & B. E. Scott, 2012. Investigating fine-scale spatio-temporal predator–prey patterns in dynamic marine ecosystems: a functional data analysis approach. Journal of Applied Ecology 49: 481–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Emmrich, M., I. P. Helland, S. Busch, S. Schiller & T. Mehner, 2010. Hydroacoustic estimates of fish densities in comparison with stratified pelagic trawl sampling in two deep, coregonid-dominated lakes. Fisheries Research 105: 178–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Exo, K.-M., O. Hüppop & S. Garthe, 2003. Birds and offshore wind farms: a hot topic in marine ecology. Wader Study Group Bulletin 100: 50–53.Google Scholar
  14. Fox, A. D., M. Desholm, J. Kahlert, T. K. Christensen & I. K. Petersen, 2006. Information needs to support environmental impact assessment of the effects of European marine offshore wind farms on birds. Ibis 148: 129–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Garthe, S., 1997. Influence of hydrography, fishing activity and colony location on summer seabird distribution in the south-eastern North Sea. ICES Journal of Marine Science 54: 566–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Green, R. H., 1979. Sampling Design and Statistical Methods for Environmental Biologists. Wiley Interscience, New York.Google Scholar
  17. Hötker, H., K.-M. Thomsen & H. Jeromin, 2006. Impacts on biodiversity of exploitation of renewable energy sources: the example of birds and bats. Facts, gaps in knowledge, demands for further research and ornithological guidelines for the development of renewable energy exploitation. Michael Otto Institut im NABU, Bergenhusen.Google Scholar
  18. Hunt, G. L., F. Mehlum, R. W. Russell, D. Irons, M. B. Decker & P. H. Becker, 1999. Physical processes, prey abundance, and the foraging ecology of seabirds. Proceedings of the International Ornithological Congress 22: 2040–2056.Google Scholar
  19. Jackman, S., 2011. pscl: A Package of Classes and Methods for R Developed in the Political Science Computational Laboratory. Stanford University, Stanford.Google Scholar
  20. Jurvelius, J. & I. Sammalkorpi, 1995. Hydroacoustic monitoring of the distribution, density and the mass-removal of pelagic fish in a eutrophic lake. Hydrobiologia 316: 33–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kaiser, M. J. & B. E. Spencer, 1996. The effects of beam-trawl disturbance on infaunal communities in different habitats. Journal of Animal Ecology 65: 348–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Krijgsveld, K. L., R. C. Fijn, M. Japink, P. van Horssen, C. Heunks, M. Collier, M. Poot, D. Beuker & S. Dirksen, 2011. Effect studies offshore wind farm Egmond aan Zee: final report on fluxes, flight altitudes and behaviour of flying birds. Bureau Waardenburg report nr 10-219, Bureau Waardenburg, Culemborg.Google Scholar
  23. Langston, R. H. W. & J. D. Pullan, 2003. Wind farms and birds: an analysis of the effects of wind farms on birds, and guidance on environmental assessment criteria and site selection issues. T-PVS/Inf (2003) 12, RSPB/Birdlife International, UK.Google Scholar
  24. Leonhard, S. B. & J. Pedersen, 2006. Benthic communities at Horns Rev before, during and after construction of Horns Rev offshore wind farm. Final report, Bio/consult A/S, Denmark.Google Scholar
  25. Leonhard, S. B., C. Stenberg & J. Støttrup (eds), 2011. Effect of the Horns Rev 1 offshore wind farm on fish communities: follow-up seven years after construction. Technical report, The Danish Energy Authority, Kopenhagen.Google Scholar
  26. Leopold, M. F., R. S. A. van Bemmelen & A. Zuur, 2013. Responses of local birds to the offshore wind farms PAWP and OWEZ off the Dutch mainland coast. Report C151/12, Imares, Texel.Google Scholar
  27. Maclean, I. M. D., M. M. Rehfisch, H. Skov & C. B. Thaxter, 2013. Evaluating the statistical power of detecting changes in the abundance of seabirds at sea. Ibis 155: 113–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McCullagh, P. & J. A. Nelder, 1989. Generalized Linear Models, 2nd ed. Chapman and Hall, London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mitchell, P. I., S. F. Newton, N. Ratcliffe & T. E. Dunn, 2004. Seabird Populations of Britain and Ireland: Results of the Seabird 2000 Census (1998–2002). T & A D Poyser, London.Google Scholar
  30. Onkelinx, T., G. Van Ryckegem, D. Bauwens, P. Quataert & E. Van den Bergh, 2008. Potentie van ruimtelijke modellen als beleidsondersteunend instrument met betrekking tot het voorkomen van watervogels in de Zeeschelde. Report INBO.R.2008.34, Research Institute for Nature and Forest, Brussels.Google Scholar
  31. Petersen, I. K., T. K. Christensen, J. Kahlert, M. Desholm & A. D. Fox, 2006. Final results of bird studies at the offshore wind farms at Nysted and Horns Rev, Denmark. NERI report, National Environmental Research Institute, Denmark.Google Scholar
  32. Petersen, I. K., M. MacKenzie, E. Rexstad, M. S. Wisz & A. D. Fox, 2011. Comparing pre- and post-construction distributions of long-tailed ducks Clangula hyemalis in and around the Nysted offshore wind farm, Denmark : a quasi-designed experiment accounting for imperfect detection, local surface features and autocorrelation. CREEM Technical report 2011–1, Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling, St Andrews.Google Scholar
  33. Potts, J. M. & J. Elith, 2006. Comparing species abundance models. Ecological Modelling 199: 153–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reubens, J., S. Degraer & M. Vincx, 2013. Offshore wind farms significantly alter fish community structure: aggregation of Atlantic cod and pouting. In Degraer, S., R. Brabant & B. Rumes (eds), Environmental Impacts of Offshore Wind Farms in the Belgian Part of the North Sea: Learning From the Past to Optimise Future Monitoring Programs. Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels: 115–121.Google Scholar
  35. Ripley, B. & M. Lapsley, 2013. RODBC: ODBC database access. R package version 1.3-7 [available on internet at].
  36. R Core Team, 2013a. R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna [available on internet at].
  37. R Core Team, 2013b. Foreign: read data stored by Minitab, S, SAS, SPSS, Stata, Systat, dBase, etc. R package version 0.8-55 [available on internet at].
  38. Sæther, B.-E. & Ø. Bakke, 2000. Avian life history variation and contribution of demographic traits to the population growth rate. Ecology 81: 642–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schwemmer, P., S. Adler, N. Guse, N. Markones & S. Garthe, 2009. Influence of water flow velocity, water depth and colony distance on distribution and foraging patterns of terns in the Wadden Sea. Fisheries Oceanography 18: 161–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Scott, B. E., A. Webb, M. R. Palmer, C. B. Embling & J. Sharples, 2013. Fine scale bio-physical oceanographic characteristics predict the foraging occurrence of contrasting seabird species; Gannet (Morus bassanus) and storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus). Progress in Oceanography 117: 118–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stewart-Oaten, A. & J. R. Bence, 2001. Temporal and spatial variation in environmental impact assessment. Ecological Monographs 71: 305–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stewart-Oaten, A., W. W. Murdoch & K. R. Parker, 1986. Environmental impact assessment: “pseudoreplication” in time? Ecology 67: 929–940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Stienen, E. W. M., J. Van Waeyenberge, E. Kuijken & J. Seys, 2007. Trapped within the corridor of the Southern North Sea: the potential impact of offshore wind farms on seabirds. In de Lucas, M., G. F. E. Janss & M. Ferrer (eds), Birds and Wind Farms: Risk Assessment and Mitigation. Quercus, Madrid: 71–80.Google Scholar
  44. Tasker, M. L., P. H. Jones, T. J. Dixon & B. F. Blake, 1984. Counting seabirds at sea from ships: a review of methods employed and a suggestion for a standardised approach. Auk 101: 567–577.Google Scholar
  45. Underwood, A. J., 1994. On beyond BACI: sampling designs that might reliably detect environmental disturbances. Ecological Applications 4: 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Vanermen, N., E. W. M. Stienen, W. Courtens & M. Van de walle, 2006. Referentiestudie van de avifauna van de Thorntonbank. Report INBO.A.2006.22, Research Institute for Nature and Forest, Brussels.Google Scholar
  47. Vanermen, N., E. W. M. Stienen, W. Courtens, T. Onkelinx, M. Van de walle & H. Verstraete, 2010. Monitoring seabird displacement: a modelling approach. Report INBO.R.2010.12, Research Institute for Nature and Forest, Brussels.Google Scholar
  48. Vanermen, N., E. W. M. Stienen, W. Courtens, T. Onkelinx, M. Van de walle & H. Verstraete, 2013. Bird monitoring at offshore wind farms in the Belgian Part of the North Sea: assessing seabird displacement effects. Report INBO.R.2013.755887, Research Institute for Nature and Forest, Brussels.Google Scholar
  49. Vanermen, N., T. Onkelinx, P. Verschelde, W. Courtens, M. Van de walle, H. Verstraete & E. W. M. Stienen, 2014. Assessing seabird displacement at offshore wind farms: power ranges of a monitoring and data handling protocol. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  50. Venables, W. N. & B. D. Ripley, 2002. Modern Applied Statistics with S, 4th ed. Springer, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ver Hoef, J. M. & P. L. Boveng, 2007. Quasi-poisson vs. negative binomial regression: how should we model overdispersed count data? Ecology 88: 2766–2772.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wetlands International, 2013. Waterbird population estimates [available on internet at].
  53. Wickham, H., 2007. Reshaping data with the reshape package. Journal of Statistical Software 21 (12) [available on internet at].
  54. Zeileis, A. & T. Hothorn, 2002. Diagnostic checking in regression relationships. R News 2 (3): 7–10 [available on internet at].
  55. Zeileis, A., C. Keibler & S. Jackman, 2008. Regression models for count data in R. Journal of Statistical Software 27 (8) [available on internet at].
  56. Zuur, A. F., E. N. Ieno, N. J. Walker, A. A. Saveliev & G. M. Smith, 2009. Mixed Effects Models and Extensions in Ecology with R. Springer, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicolas Vanermen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thierry Onkelinx
    • 1
  • Wouter Courtens
    • 1
  • Marc Van de walle
    • 1
  • Hilbran Verstraete
    • 1
  • Eric W. M. Stienen
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Institute for Nature and ForestBrusselsBelgium

Personalised recommendations