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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 669:201-212 (2021)  -  DOI:

Tidal stream use by black guillemots Cepphus grylle in relation to a marine renewable energy development

Daniel T. Johnston1,5,*, Robert W. Furness2, Alexandra M. C. Robbins3, Glen A. Tyler4, Jason McIlvenny1, Elizabeth A. Masden1

1Environmental Research Institute, North Highland College UHI, University of the Highlands and Islands, Thurso KW14 7EE, UK
2MacArthur Green Ltd, 93 South Woodside Road, Glasgow G20 6NT, UK
3NatureScot, Great Glen House, Leachkin Road, Inverness IV3 8NW, UK
4Stewart Building, Alexandra Wharf, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0LL, UK
5Present address: British Trust for Ornithology Scotland, Stirling University Innovation Park, Stirling FK9 4NF, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Seabirds that forage within tidal streams may be vulnerable to collision or habitat change due to tidal stream turbines. The black guillemot Cepphus grylle is considered to be the seabird species most at risk from tidal stream turbines in UK waters. Using GPS tracking of adult breeding black guillemots, carried out on the island of Stroma, Caithness, in 2016 and 2017, we examined habitat use within the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth in relation to the MeyGen tidal lease area (MTLA). We found foraging areas of black guillemots within the Inner Sound to be influenced by tidal velocity and seafloor depth. The velocities and depths which black guillemots selected while foraging within a 1 km boundary of the lease area significantly differed from those concurrently occurring within the MTLA (velocities: foraging = 0.79 m s-1, MTLA = 1.57 m s-1; depths: foraging = 24.55 m, MTLA = 32.09 m). This disparity between the used habitat and the conditions within the MTLA may indicate a reduced potential for interactions with turbines. The potential for collision with turbine blades is further reduced by black guillemots predominantly associating with mean tidal velocities slower than the 1 m s-1 cut-in speeds of the MeyGen turbines. However, as more turbines are constructed within the lease area (up to 398 turbines proposed), habitat and hydrodynamic conditions may be altered to become more suitable for foraging, so monitoring black guillemot foraging behaviour post-construction is strongly recommended.

KEY WORDS: Spatial ecology · Seabirds · Environmental impacts · Collision risks

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Cite this article as: Johnston DT, Furness RW, Robbins AMC, Tyler GA, McIlvenny J, Masden EA (2021) Tidal stream use by black guillemots Cepphus grylle in relation to a marine renewable energy development. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 669:201-212.

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