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