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Spatial Impact of Wind Farm Construction on Harbor Porpoise Detectability

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The Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life


To combat impacts of climate change, offshore wind farm construction is accelerating globally. Accompanying increases in construction activity have raised concerns about associated noise impacts on acoustically sensitive species, including harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). This study investigated spatial impacts from the construction of ScottishPower Renewables’ East Anglia ONE (EA1) offshore wind farm (310 pin-piles), located off southeast England, on porpoises belonging to the North Sea Management Unit. Data on porpoise presence and received noise levels were collected from up to 12 monitoring stations around EA1 before, during, and after construction from March 2018 to June 2019, using automated click detectors (C-PODs) and full bandwidth acoustic recorders. Acoustic recordings were used to calibrate a sound propagation model to assess porpoise responses to received noise levels. Analysis of porpoise detection data in the presence and absence of pin-piling revealed negative effects of piling, with an overall decrease in porpoise detection probability out to 14.0 km from piling activity. The predicted frequency-weighted received level at this distance was 103.0 dB re 1 μPa2s SEL. These observations inform our current knowledge of pin-piling-related impacts on harbor porpoises at the spatial scale of the individual wind farm, which is crucial to develop effective mitigation strategies.

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This project was funded by ScottishPower Renewables, and we wish to express our gratitude to SPR’s Offshore Environment Team for their support. We would like to thank Dr. Carol Sparling (SMRU, University of St. Andrews) and Dr. Cormac Booth (SMRU Consulting) for their assistance and advice during this project. Additionally, we would like to thank the representatives of the following organization for their contributions to the stakeholder workshops: JNCC, Natural England, Marine Scotland Science, NatureScot, DEFRA, the Crown Estate, the MMO, and the Wildlife Trust. We thank the additional Ocean Science Consulting (OSC) Ltd. team members involved in data collection (Vilislav Velikov) and data downloading (Dr. Laura Williamson). Megan Ryder (SMRU Consulting) and Dr. Eiren Jacobson (Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling – CREEM, University of St. Andrews) provided helpful analytical advice in the GAM modelling process.

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Correspondence to Nienke C. F. van Geel .

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van Geel, N.C.F. et al. (2023). Spatial Impact of Wind Farm Construction on Harbor Porpoise Detectability. In: Popper, A.N., Sisneros, J., Hawkins, A.D., Thomsen, F. (eds) The Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life . Springer, Cham.

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-031-10417-6

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-031-10417-6

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