Peer Reviewed Publication
Environmental Impact Assessment Review
Offshore wind farm developments may impact protected marine mammal populations, requiring appropriate assessment under the EU Habitats Directive. We describe a framework developed to assess population level impacts of disturbance from piling noise on a protected harbour seal population in the vicinity of proposed wind farm developments in NE Scotland. Spatial patterns of seal distribution and received noise levels are integrated with available data on the potential impacts of noise to predict how many individuals are displaced or experience auditory injury. Expert judgement is used to link these impacts to changes in vital rates and applied to population models that compare population changes under baseline and construction scenarios over a 25 year period. We use published data and hypothetical piling scenarios to illustrate how the assessment framework has been used to support environmental assessments, explore the sensitivity of the framework to key assumptions, and discuss its potential application to other populations of marine mammals.
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