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Wade H.M.,University of the Highlands and Islands | Wade H.M.,Marine Scotland - Marine Laboratory | Masden E.A.,University of the Highlands and Islands | Jackson A.C.,Lane College | Furness R.W.,MacArthur Green
Marine Policy | Year: 2016

The effects of marine renewable energy developments (MREDs) on seabirds are uncertain because of the relative infancy of the industry. This uncertainty can delay the consenting process as regulators adopt a precautionary approach. This study uses novel methods to demonstrate uncertainty in two indices that ranked the vulnerability of seabird populations to MREDs. The study also consolidates recently available data with information from the two indices to consider developments in our understanding of how seabirds respond to MREDs and to present up-to-date vulnerability predictions. Results indicate greater uncertainty in data regarding displacement caused by vessels and/or helicopters, and use of tidal races by seabirds, than in data regarding the percentage of flight overlapping with wind turbine blades and the level of displacement caused by structures. Results also indicate varying uncertainty among species. Overall vulnerability rankings remained broadly the same, with some minor changes. The uncertainty indices highlight areas lacking data, identify robust predictions, and indicate where particular caution in interpreting vulnerability indices should be adopted. They are a useful tool to inform impact assessment and identify strategic research and monitoring priorities. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd.


Large-scale and long-term ringing and cohort colour ringing of chicks, combined with trapping of immatures on clubs and adults on nests, allows the age of first breeding by Great Skuas Stercorarius skua to be investigated. Modal and median age of first breeding of Great Skuas at their largest colony (Foula, Shetland) was seven years, but there was considerable individual variation. Birds may first breed when four to >11 years old. Compared with the situation in Foula, Great Skuas start breeding at a younger age at smaller colonies. When conditions at Foula deteriorated, resulting in reduced adult survival, reduced breeding success and population decline, age of first breeding increased. These patterns imply a density-dependent age of first breeding, but with individual variation because higher-quality birds recruit at a younger age than birds in poor body condition. Density-dependent variation in age at first breeding may have an important influence on population growth rate, and this would merit study also in other species of seabirds through a dedicated ringing and colour-ringing programme. © 2015 British Trust for Ornithology.


Furness R.W.,MacArthur Green | Wanless S.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology
Ringing and Migration | Year: 2014

Given the conservation importance of Gannet populations in Britain, and concerns about possible adverse impacts of offshore wind farms on Gannets as a result of collision risk, we advocate the establishment of strategic monitoring studies at key colonies. Colour ringing adult Gannets to measure survival at colonies close to and distant from offshore wind farms could indicate whether or not collision mortality has a detectable effect on adult survival. Colour ringing chicks could provide information on prospecting movements of immatures and colonies where birds recruit. Tracking studies of both adults and immatures would be highly desirable to complement improved monitoring of demography. © 2015 British Trust for Ornithology.


Hammer S.,University of Glasgow | Nager R.G.,University of Glasgow | Johnson P.C.D.,University of Glasgow | Furness R.W.,MacArthur Green | Provencher J.F.,Carleton University
Marine Pollution Bulletin | Year: 2015

Plastic is a common item in marine environments. Studies assessing seabird ingestion of plastics have focused on species that ingest plastics mistaken for prey items. Few studies have examined a scavenger and predatory species that are likely to ingest plastics indirectly through their prey items, such as the great skua (Stercorarius skua). We examined 1034 regurgitated pellets from a great skua colony in the Faroe Islands for plastics and found approximately 6% contained plastics. Pellets containing remains of Northern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) had the highest prevalence of plastic. Our findings support previous work showing that Northern fulmars have higher loads of plastics than other sympatric species. This study demonstrates that marine plastic debris is transferred from surface feeding seabird species to predatory great skuas. Examination of plastic ingestion in species that do not ingest plastics directly can provide insights into how plastic particles transfer vertically within the food web. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


Hammer S.,University of Glasgow | Nager R.G.,University of Glasgow | Alonso S.,University of Glasgow | McGill R.A.R.,Scottish Universities Environmental Research Center | And 2 more authors.
Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology | Year: 2016

To monitor environmental pollutants in Faroese biota, samples from a top predator were analysed and put into a spatial and temporal context. Analysis of 20 Great Skua eggs sampled in 2012 from the Faroe Islands showed >70 % lower concentrations of legacy persistent organic pollutants (POPs) than in samples analysed in 1977. The 2012 Faroese eggs showed higher concentrations than for eggs in Shetland from about the same period (2008). Eggshells were analysed for sub-lethal effects but there were no detectable effects of legacy POP levels on eggshell colour or thickness. A temporal decline in legacy POPs would indicate a reduction in the general pollutant levels present in the environment as has been shown in other areas of the North Atlantic, but there are significant geographic differences in POPs levels likely due to differences in diet resulting in significantly different exposures on a relatively limited spatial scale. © 2016 The Author(s)

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