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MEPS 690:185-200 (2022)  -  DOI:

Potential climate-driven changes to seabird demography: implications for assessments of marine renewable energy development

Kate R. Searle1,*, Adam Butler2, James J. Waggitt3, Peter G. H. Evans3,4, Lucy R. Quinn5, Maria I. Bogdanova1, Tom J. Evans6, Janelle E. Braithwaite7, Francis Daunt1

1UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Bush Estate, Edinburgh EH26 0QB, UK
2Bioinformatics and Statistics Scotland, James Clerk Maxwell Building, Peter Guthrie Tait Road, The King’s Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3FD, UK
3School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, Menai Bridge, Isle of Anglesey LL57 2DG, UK
4Sea Watch Foundation, Ewyn y Don, Bull Bay, Amlwch, Isle of Anglesey LL68 9SD, UK
5NatureScot, Great Glen House, Leachkin Road, Inverness IV3 8NW, UK
6Marine Scotland Science, Marine Laboratory, 375 Victoria Road, Aberdeen AB11 9DB, UK
7Marine Scotland, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Europe has set ambitious green energy targets, to which offshore renewable developments (ORDs) will make a significant contribution. Governments are legally required to deliver ORDs sustainably; however, they may have detrimental impacts on wildlife, especially those already experiencing declines due to climate change. Population viability analysis (PVA) is the standard method for forecasting population change in ORD assessments, but PVAs do not currently account for climate effects. We quantified climate effects on seabird breeding success for 8 UK species breeding in the North Sea. We assessed the potential for seabirds to mitigate climate-driven changes in breeding success by accessing wider resources through increased foraging ranges around colonies. We demonstrate strong links between breeding success and climate in 5 species. In 4 of these species, future climate projections indicated large declines in breeding success relative to current rates. Only one species was predicted to increase breeding success under future climate. In all 5 species, there was limited opportunity for species to increase breeding success by expanding foraging ranges to access more suitable future climatic conditions. Climate change will have significant ramifications for future breeding success of seabirds breeding in the North Sea, an area undergoing extensive and rapid offshore renewable energy development. We recommend 3 methods for including climate-driven changes to seabird breeding success within ORD assessments: development of predictive climate-driven habitat use models to estimate ORD-wildlife interactions; delivery of a new ORD assessment framework that includes dynamic predictions of climate-driven habitat use and demography of wildlife populations; and consideration of climate-driven changes in the implementation of compensatory measures.

KEY WORDS: Breeding success · Climate change · Demography · North Sea · Offshore renewable energy · Population viability analysis · Seabirds

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Cite this article as: Searle KR, Butler A, Waggitt JJ, Evans PGH and others (2022) Potential climate-driven changes to seabird demography: implications for assessments of marine renewable energy development. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 690:185-200.

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