Understanding How Marine Renewable Device Operations Influence Fine Scale Habitat Use and Behaviour of Marine Vertebrates (RESPONSE)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Department Name: Inst of Biological and Environmental Sci

Abstract

With the rapid development and imminent deployment of tidal and wave devices and the expansion of offshore wind power there is a pressing need to understand how marine wildlife is going to be affected by these developments. Existing regulations and mitigation measures are based on assumed effects. Lack of information means that the regulations may be either too onerous and recommended mitigation measures may be unnecessary or ineffective. There is a clear need to improve our understanding of how animals perceive and respond to devices and how these responses affect their behaviour, distribution and ultimately fitness.
The RESPONSE project is a multi-disciplinary study focussing on causal links between marine renewable devices (MRD) and changes in the fine-scale distribution and behaviour of marine vertebrates. The overall aim of the project is to identify and quantify actual risk of negative consequences and therefore remove one key layer of uncertainty in the scale of risk to the industry and natural environment.
The main objectives are to:
1. understand how stakeholders see the risks to the industry and to the environment.
2. measure the fine scale distribution of marine wildlife in high tidal and wave energy sites to understand how seals, cetaceans, birds and
large fish use such areas.
3. characterise acoustic, visual and electromagnetic signals that MRDs produce and assess the reactions of marine wildlife to those cues.
4. use the results in habitat preference models to infer zones of influence and avoidance associated with MRDs at both small and large
scales.
5. develop effective mitigation methods

We will achieve these objectives through a set of inter-related sub projects that will:-
1. bring together a UK wide group of regulators, conservation groups and industry to assess the perception of risk to the industry and
environment posed by negative interactions with marine wildlife.
2. use novel, high resolution GPS transmitters for seals and state of the art passive acoustics, active sonar and visual observation techniques
for porpoises, seabirds and fish to record details of their habitat use and behaviour in and around operational wave and tidal test sites and
an un-developed high energy tide site. These studies will be co-ordinated with FLOWBEC, another NERC/Defra funded project monitoring
the physical characteristics of the marine environment at these high energy sites
3. carryout a programme of physical measurements to characterise the outputs of MRDs that have a potential to cause disturbance to marine
wildlife.
4. carry out a series of controlled exposure/behaviour response trials with captive seals and with wild free ranging seals and porpoises.
5. use visual and acoustic observation data and the operating schedules of existing MRDs to assess the responses of seabirds to MRD
operations.
The results of 1 to 5 will be used to describe the effects of MRDs on individual animals over the short term, i.e. how they react to the stimuli, and over the medium to long term, i.e. how they change their movements and behaviour in response to exposure to the stimuli. These results will be used as direct input to the EBAO project, another NERC/Defra funded project modeling the potential impacts of large scale arrays of MRDs.
This project will provide a step change in knowledge about the existence and importance of adverse effects of MRDs and provide an ability to predict impacts of

Planned Impact

see lead proposal

Publications

10 25 50

publication icon
Benjamins Steven (2015) CONFUSION REIGNS? A REVIEW OF MARINE MEGAFAUNA INTERACTIONS WITH TIDAL-STREAM ENVIRONMENTS in OCEANOGRAPHY AND MARINE BIOLOGY: AN ANNUAL REVIEW, VOL 53

 
Description The ecological impacts upon marine top-predators, including seabirds, remain largely unknown. This study set out to assess the possible range of direct and indirect impacts tidal stream turbines could have many upon seabird populations, and in particular the risk of direct collisions between individuals and moving components which is what currently still causing the most concern. However, it is likely that not all species of diving seabirds are equally vulnerable. Part of predicting which species are most vulnerable involves the estimation of spatial overlap between a species specific foraging distributions and the location of tidal stream turbines.
To begin to quantify the potential population level effects a range of methods and approaches were used that help to predict whether individual species: (1) exploit areas suitable for tidal stream turbines, (2) dive near tidal stream turbines within these areas, or (3) dive to depths where moving components are found. This approach required a fundamental understanding of the mechanistic links between physical oceanographic conditions and foraging opportunities. Therefore, multi-disciplinary approaches incorporating methods were needed to quantify the physical conditions and identify foraging behaviour over large and small spatial scales.
Comparisons between shore-based and boat-based surveys were first analysed to answer the first issue of whether seabirds actively forage in areas suitable for tidal stream turbines. Most shore based surveys use single vantage points and extensive grid systems to record the locations of foraging birds as were the multiple year surveys performed in the Fall of Warness (FOW), Orkney, UK. are used to evaluate their effectiveness for quantifying and statistically analysing spatial overlap in large tidal passes. Whilst it was possible to quantify and statistically analyse the amount of spatial overlap between foraging seabirds and locations of areas to be used by tidal stream turbines, viable statistical analysis required data sacrifices through the use of presence rather than abundance data due to the high percentage of zeros in the data sets. Moreover, comparisons between simultaneous shore-based and boat-based surveys, which are assumed to represent the more accurate method, showed that sightings from shore were biased towards non-turbine microhabitats. This shore-based survey bias reflected low detection rates of foraging birds in the faster unidirectional currents, i.e. those favoured for the locations optimal for tidal stream turbines. These studies suggested that future shore-based surveys could overcome such biases by using several vantage points spread throughout large tidal passes, and comparing species use of neighbouring turbine and non-turbine microhabitats at reasonable distances to the vantage points (<2 km) during favourable sea states (Beaufort Scale < 3). It is hoped that these recommendations lead to the development of standardised shore-based survey methods, providing comparable measurements of spatial overlap across tidal passes earmarked for array deployments.
Tidal stream turbines could have several direct impacts upon pursuit-diving seabirds foraging within tidal stream environments including both collisions and displacement. To be able to answer the second and third issues of whether seabirds actually dive near tidal stream turbines and at the depths of moving components within these area requires a detailed understanding of how foraging seabirds respond to temporally variable but predictable hydrodynamic conditions immediately around devices. A clear understanding of such detailed behaviour could identify when interactions between seabirds and devices are most likely to occur. Such understanding could also help to quantify the magnitude of potential impacts, and facilitate the development of suitable mitigation measures.
A combination of vessel-based observational surveys, Finite Volume Coastal Ocean Model (FVCOM) outputs, and hydroacoustic seabed surveys provided concurrent measures of foraging distributions and physical characteristics at a fine temporal (15 min) and spatial (500 m) resolution across a tidal stream environment suitable for array installations, during both breeding and non-breeding seasons. These data sets were then used to test for associations between foraging pursuit-diving seabirds (Atlantic puffins, black guillemots, common guillemots, European shags) and physical features. What was found was that these species associated with features such as areas of fast horizontal currents, as well as slow horizontal currents, high turbulence, downward vertical currents and also hard-rough seabeds. The identity and strength of associations differed among species, and also within species between seasons, indicative of interspecific and intraspecific variations in habitat use. However, Atlantic puffins were associated particularly strongly with areas of fast horizontal currents during breeding seasons, and European shags with areas of rough-hard seabeds and downward vertical currents during non-breeding seasons. Atlantic puffins' strong association with fast horizontal current speeds indicates that they are particularly likely to interact with tidal stream installations during breeding seasons. We recommend therefore that post-installation monitoring and mitigation measures should focus on this species and season. Environmental impact assessments (EIA) generally involve once-a-month surveys across two year periods. However, the approaches used in this study show that more focussed surveys can greatly benefit management strategies aiming to reduce the likelihood of negative impacts by facilitating the development of targeted mitigation measures. It is therefore recommended that these approaches contribute towards EIA within development sites.
Exploitation Route The results and applied methods produced by this study have a wide range of potential beneficiaries in marine biology, conservation management and marine policy and are now providing valuable information for technology developers and regulators. The results support marine spatial planning policy in fields of marine management involving seals, cetaceans and seabirds and has the potential to be extended to an even wider range of marine species such as salmonids, other migratory fish species and basking sharks. The project provided a set of useful tools to assist in assessing risk resulting from rapidly developing marine activities against the background of rapid environmental change. As a consequence the results of this project will form a central part of the environmental impact assessment for each and every future marine renewable development in UK waters and will have world-wide application.
Sectors Energy,Environment

 
Description The recommendation for survey design from this study are now being used in environmental impact assessments for marine renewable development sites in UK waters.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description DEFRA Workshop: Foresight Future of the sea
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Future work and Funding resulting from the research
Amount £332,412 (GBP)
Funding ID FLOWBEC NE/J004332/1 and RESPONSE NE/J004340/1 
Organisation Research Councils UK (RCUK) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2011 
End 09/2014
 
Description Innovation
Amount £99,356 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/N01765X/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2016 
End 03/2018
 
Description Knowledge Transfer Partnership
Amount £191,488 (GBP)
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2015 
End 01/2017
 
Description Research Grant, Standard Research
Amount £1,166,390 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K012851/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2014 
End 02/2017
 
Description Supergen ORE hub 2018
Amount £5,097,482 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S000747/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2018 
End 06/2022
 
Title Survey techniques for tidal energy sites 
Description A new method for understating marine mobile animal use of fine scale habitat which uses a combination of vessel-based observational surveys, Finite Volume Coastal Ocean Model (FVCOM) outputs, and hydroacoustic seabed surveys that allow concurrent measures of foraging distributions of mobile marine animals and physical oceanographic characteristics at a fine temporal (15 min) and spatial (500 m) resolution across a high tidal stream environment. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The project provided a set of useful methodologies to assist in assessing collision and displacement risk resulting from rapidly developing marine renewable activities. The methods in this project will are forming the methods of choice in environmental impact assessment for current and future marine renewable tidal stream developments in UK waters and will have world-wide application. 
 
Description "MARRiAgE: MArine Renewables Research Accelerator tEam" 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Material used in workshop run by The Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS) Marine Renewable Energy Forum and Offshore Renewables Joint Industry Programme (ORJIP) for Ocean Energy . Purpose to discuss how to fix the broke process of funding fundamental research for environmental impacts of marine renewables. Impact - it launched and produced the funding for Development of an ORE environmental R&D strategy for Scotland
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Guest Speaker at the Co-Coast Monthly Meeting, Bangor University, Menai Bridge, 14th November 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk outlining impacts on seabirds and cetaceans from tidal stream turbines, and linking this to developments in Anglesey area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Guest speaker at the RSPB Seabird Centre, Anglesey, UK. 27th January 2016. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk outlining impacts on seabirds and cetaceans from tidal stream turbines, and linking this to developments in Anglesey area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Marine renewable energy extraction, climate change and trophic linkages: What do we need to understand? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact When we start putting in hundreds of marine renewable devices in large arrays of areas of >10 km2, then we will start to change something fundamental in the marine environment: the level of physical mixing. The marine environment is less variable, more predictable than the terrestrial environment and hence most marine species rely on the predictability of daily, biweekly and seasonal currents and local levels of mixing to drive their foraging and reproducing behaviours. In order to safely design and deploy large renewable developments we need to understand how mobile predators, fish, seabirds and mammals use the predictability of ocean environments to successfully forage. To understand the ecological effects of marine renewable developments we must shift the focus of research form the distributions of species onto a more fundamentally mechanistic and hypothesis driven understanding of reasons for specific areas of high foraging activity.



This talk will cover 3 main issues, using data from our empirical and modelling research, to explore the effects of renewable energy extraction influencing mobile predator foraging: 1) identifying reasons for locations of, and the potential mechanisms producing predictable foraging areas, 2) the knowledge gained on foraging habitat use by understanding the limits of foraging energy expenditure and 3) the need to explore in detail underwater foraging behaviour. The presentation will cover new surveys techniques including the collection of continuous data over a full spring-neap cycle via a combination of two upward facing sonar systems: multi-frequency and multibeam devices. These systems collected data on diving seabirds, fish species and turbulence, imaging a full `acoustic curtain' along the tidal flow in a highly challenging environment from a seabed frame placed within 25 m of an OpenHydro tidal turbine structure at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) tidal test site in Scotland, UK.

An invited tour of University of Washington, USA, University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada and Institute of Ocean Sciences, Victoria, BC, Canada. Oral presentations and talks/workshops with academics and post-graduat
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Material used in Invited Seminar National Oceanographic Centre, Liverpool 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar on Oceans as Habitats: What changes will matter the most to pelagic habitats and mobile animals? Led to offers of collaboration on NERC projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description NERC JUNE WORKSHOP Challenges and opportunities renewable energy event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Purpose to engage NERC Strategic groups and politicians about possible best routes / issues to consider to fund for strategic solution to multiple and sustainable use of marine renewable energy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Oral presentation at the 2nd World Seabird Conference, Cape Town, South Africa, 26th-30th October 2015. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Oral Presentation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Oral presentation at the Biannual Challenger Society Conference, Liverpool, UK. 5th - 6th September 2016. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Oral Presentation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Poster presentation at the 2nd World Seabird Conference, Cape Town, South Africa, 26th-30th October 2015. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster presentation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Presentation at the 12th International Conference Of The Seabird Group, Oxford, UK. 21-23rd March 2014. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster presentation in a general section.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation at the BOU Autumn Meeting, Peterborough, UK. 26th November 2012. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster presentation at a meeting focussing on impacts from marine renewable energy installations on seabirds.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Presentation at the EIMR Conference, Stromness, UK. 30th April - 1st May 2014. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Oral presentation in a section focussing on ecological impacts of marine renewable energy installations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation at the Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences Postgraduate symposium, Aberdeen, UK. 3rd-4th April 2014. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Oral presentation in a general session.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation at the Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences Research Day, Aberdeen. 7th Dec 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster presentation in a general session.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Presentation at the Movement and Dispersal Conference, Aberdeen, UK. 11-12th November 2013. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster presentation in a general section.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Presentations at the 2nd World Seabird Conference, Cape Town, South Africa. 26th-30th October 2015. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster and oral presentations in a Marine Renewable Energy Section, focussing on detecting and mitigating potential impacts from installations on seabirds.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Presentations at the ICES ASM, Reykjavík, Iceland. 23rd-27th September 2013. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Oral and poster presentation in marine spatial planning section.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Presentations at the MASTS ASM, Edinbugh, UK. 27th-29th August 2013. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Oral and poster presentations in a general session, and a workshop focussing on ecological impacts of marine renewable energy installations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description SNH Sharing Good Practice Dealing with uncertainty in the Marine Environment 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Sharing Good Practice Dealing with uncertainty in the Marine Environment - a range of short interactive sessions (and repeat) sessions to explain the potential routes to assessing the impact of renewable developments to industry, NGOs, and other academic disciplines. There were subsequent invites to give this overview to JNCC personal.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016