Offshore Renewable Energy Developments to Affect Gannets

First Posted: Nov 12, 2012 01:24 AM EST

A recent study has found that the gannet's population can be adversely affected by the renewable energy developments in the English Channel.

The study states that the offshore renewable energy developments in the English Channel have the potential to affect the foraging behavior of northern gannets from Alderney in the Channel Islands.

In order to proceed with the study, the researchers from the University of Liverpool, the British Trust for Ornithology and Alderney Wildlife Trust tracked nearly 15 northern gannets with the help of GPS technology.

These gannets were breeding on Les Etacs in North West Alderney. By doing so, they are trying to discover their feeding habits and whether the routes they travelled could be affected by proposed English and French offshore energy developments.

They noticed that on the whole gannets flew in the same direction and for the same distance but they vary significantly in the amount of time they spend searching for food. This indicates that the individual gannets do not depend on specific feeding sites.

Louise Soanes, from the School of Environmental Sciences, said: "We found that the area where the gannets travelled for food overlapped with nine sites earmarked for offshore marine energy developments which suggests that the feeding habits of these birds could be affected, as well as the potential for collision with wind turbine developments.

"These sites also fell across three different territorial waters -- in the UK, France and the Channel Islands -- which has implications for international collaboration and cooperation.

"GPS technology is becoming cheaper, longer lasting, more accurate and easier to use on a wide range of species. Our work highlighted the important role tracking technologies can play in determining how sea bird colonies would be affected by offshore developments and we recommend that they become an integral part of the Environmental Impact Assessment for marine renewable developments."

The preliminary findings from this study are being taken forward by the University and its partners. After this the researchers try and probe into what exactly the gannets use these areas for and how dependent the gannets are on these areas over the next three years. Doing so will help them to better understand how the developments may impact their populations.

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