Assessing seabird populations in response to offshore wind energy development in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf
Interest in offshore wind energy development in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) has led to numerous studies designed to aid in the optimal placement of wind facilities to both maximize energy production and minimize deleterious effects on wildlife populations. As part of the effort to develop a scientifically sound approach to wind energy development, researchers and policy makers have worked together to create the Atlantic Compendium of Avian Information, a database standardizing all available seabird data from the early 1900s through 2014. Using this database, meta analyses on seabird locations and abundances have produced spatially explicit models of pre-construction distributions and abundances as well as a statistical approach for identifying seabird “hotspots” and “coldspots”. Now that locations are being leased and prepared for development, it is important to assess the population-level consequences of wind farm construction and operation on wildlife populations. As such, we examined the potential impacts of offshore wind energy development on seabird populations in the Atlantic OCS. We conducted a literature review on bird population-level impacts of wind turbines to determine the possible range of outcomes post construction.
Using the results from our literature review as a guide, we developed a predictive model using 75 datasets on dozens of species spanning 36 years from the Atlantic Compendium of Avian Information. Our model uses environmental covariate parameter estimates and hypothesized ranges of future covariate values as a result of construction to project post-construction species abundances. The results of this project are designed to aid natural resource policy managers in further refining the leasing process and should be of significant value to industry in their efforts to meet federal regulations and requirements by examining the environmental impacts of proposed wind energy development.