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Assessing the effects of offshore wind farms with population models

Lesser Black-backed Gull foraging over the North Sea.
Population model showing the role of floaters (green box) in the population.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls and offshore wind farms

During the breeding season, the Lesser Black-backed Gull is common along the Dutch coast, mainly in the north and south. In the winter, most birds leave the Netherlands for more southern area, commonly Spain and Portugal. The Dutch  Government is planning to permit the construction of a large number of wind farms in the North Sea, and similar initiatives are planned in other countries. During the breeding season, Lesser Black-backed Gulls can forage at sea, sometimes many tens kilometers from the colony. This species is of particular concern in the Netherlands as several Natura 2000 sites are designated on the basis of these breeding colonies. Therefore, the potential effects of wind farms on these populations has to be assessed.

Assessing the effects at the population level

In order to assess the effects of collision-related mortality on the population of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a population model was developed. The key parameters were reproduction and survival rates and were age-specific. This project was carried out on behalf of the Dutch Government and Eneco Wind bv. The final model was presented at aninternational congress in 2013 as well as in the following report.

Poster: Population models for Lesser Black-backed Gulls presented at the BOU - British Ornithological Union congress AVIAN DEMOGRAPHY IN A CHANGING WORLD Congress: University of Leicester, UK, 26 March 2013

Oral presentation: Population models for Lesser Black-backed Gulls presented at the BOU - British Ornithological Union congress AVIAN DEMOGRAPHY IN A CHANGING WORLD van de BOU - British Ornithological Union: University of Leicester, UK, 26 March 2013

The following report is only available in Dutch, please contact if you require further information about our work in this area. Report: Population models for Lesser Black-backed Gulls: Assessing the effects of offshore wind farms on the population of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. R. Lensink & P.W. van Horssen 2012 (Bureau Waardenburg Report 11-198).

Application of population models

This model can also be used to assess the potential effects of offshore wind farms on populations of other species. Providing good estimates for reproduction and mortality rates are available, the influence of additional mortality resulting from collisions with wind turbines can be assessed. More information about how this model has been used in the assessment of future wind farms in the Dutch North Sea can be found on our pages over research at Offshore Windpark Egmond aan Zee.

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