Protecting marine mammal populations from off-shore energy developments

Aberdeen research underpins guideline for assessing and lessening impacts of offshore energy developments on protected marine mammal populations

Offshore windfarm constructionOffshore oil and gas and renewable energy developments are integral to the economy and the need to secure sources of energy.  However, there are concerns that associated noise – for example construction noise – could pose a risk to marine mammals.

As a result of the University of Aberdeen’s long-term ecological studies of coastal harbour seal and bottlenose dolphin populations in Scotland’s Moray Firth, led by Professor Paul Thompson, these species are now two of the most intensively studied marine mammal populations in the world.

Professor Thompson and his team have been instrumental in informing frameworks for assessing and mitigating the impacts of offshore installations on marine mammals in EU protected areas, allowing comparison of alternative construction options and demonstrating to regulators that proposals will meet international agreements on environmental protection.

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Key publications

  • Pirotta, E., Harwood, J., Thompson, P.M., New, L., Cheney, B., Arso, M., Hammond, P.S., Donovan, C. & Lusseau, D. (2015) Predicting the effects of human developments on individual dolphins to understand potential long-term population consequences. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B. 282: 20152109.
  • Bailey, H., Brookes, K.L. & Thompson, P.M. (2014) Assessing environmental impacts of offshore wind farms: lessons learned and recommendations for the future. Aquatic Biosystems 10
  • Thompson, P.M., Brookes, K.L., Graham, I.M., Barton, T.R., Needham, K., Bradbury, G. & Merchant, N.D. (2013) Short-term disturbance by a commercial two-dimensional seismic survey does not lead to long-term displacement of harbour porpoises. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B. 280: 20132001.
  • Thompson, P.M., Hastie, G.D., Nedwell, J., Barham, R., Brookes, K.L., Cordes, L.S., Bailey, H. & McLean, N. (2013). Framework for assessing impacts of pile-driving noise from offshore wind farm construction on a harbour seal population. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 43: 73-85
  • Cordes, L.S. & Thompson, P.M. (2013). Variation in breeding phenology provides insights into drivers of long-term population change in harbour seals. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B., 280:20130847
  • Cordes, LS, Duck, CD, Mackey, BL, Hall, AJ, & Thompson, PM. (2011).  Long-term patterns in harbour seal site-use and the consequences for managing protected areas. Animal Conservation 14, 430-438.
  • Thompson, PM, Mackey, BL, Barton, TR, Duck, C & Butler, JRA (2007).  Assessing the potential impact of salmon fisheries management on the conservation status of harbour seals in NE Scotland. Animal Conservation, 10, 48-56.
  • Thompson, PM, Lusseau, D, Barton, T, Simmons, D, Rusin, J & Bailey, H. (2010).  Assessing the responses of coastal cetaceans to the construction of offshore wind turbines. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 60,1200-1208.