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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

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

Kate R. Searle*, Adam Butler, James J. Waggitt, Peter G. H. Evans, Lucy R. Quinn, Maria I. Bogdanova, Tom J. Evans, Janelle E. Braithwaite, Francis Daunt

*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, however, PVAs do not currently account for climate effects. We quantified climate effects on seabird breeding success in eight 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 five species. In four 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 five 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 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.