Successful study gives positive outlook for Alderney’s seabirds

Successful study gives positive outlook for Alderney’s seabirds

2 February 2016

A four year field research study by the University of Liverpool has reached completion. The Study was supported by the Alderney Commission for Renewable Energy (ACRE), the Alderney Wildlife Trust, the Natural Environment Research Council and the British Trust for Ornithology. It concentrated on Alderney’s seabirds and the potential impacts and interactions with Marine Renewable Energy Installations (MREIs) such as windfarms or tidal turbine arrays and gave positive results for the local bird populations.

PhD student and researcher Vicky Warwick-Evans spent three seasons during 2013-2015 working with Alderney’s well-known 10,000 strong population of Northern gannets on Les Etacs collecting data using state of the art tagging devices. The data was fed into computer models to simulate the behaviours of the bird population.

Vicky tells us “our studies have successfully revealed that Alderney’s internationally important population of Northern gannets are unlikely to be negatively affected by offshore wind- farms planned throughout the English Channel. While the gannets spend time in the windfarm areas, the simulation suggests that this is not a common behaviour and if they do, the risk of colliding with turbine blades is very low. Finally even if the birds decide not to enter windfarms in future, it appears that they are able to gather enough food to satisfy themselves and their chicks from other parts of the Channel.”

Vicky also carried out predictive modelling of bird distributions based on cliff top observations. She said “This part of our study looked at the factors that might influence how Alderney’s other seabirds such as auks, gulls and shags choose to spend their time. It was clear that birds spend most of their time close to their nests and the coast, which will be useful information as Alderney seeks to progress its MREI capacity. If tidal turbines are installed where initially suggested we think that this is unlikely to be an area of high usage by the birds. ”

ACRE and renewable energy developers can use this research to inform environmental assessments which are a key part of the licencing and consent process.

The research papers will be published in scientific literature within the next year. Read more here