Effects of the construction of Scroby Sands offshore wind farm on the prey base of Little tern Sternula albifrons at its most important UK colony

M.R. Perrow, J.J. Gilroy, E.R. Skeate, M.L. Tomlinson

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Despite widespread interest in the impacts of wind farms upon birds, few researchers have examined the potential for indirect or trophic (predator-prey) effects. Using surface trawls, we monitored prey abundance before and after construction of a 30 turbine offshore wind farm sited close to an internationally important colony of Little terns. Observations confirmed that young-of-the-year clupeids dominated chick diet, which trawl samples suggested were mainly herring. Multivariate modelling indicated a significant reduction in herring abundance from 2004 onwards that could not be explained by environmental factors. Intensely noisy monopile installation during the winter spawning period was suggested to be responsible. Reduced prey abundance corresponded with a significant decline in Little tern foraging success. Unprecedented egg abandonment and lack of chick hatching tentatively suggested a colony-scale response in some years. We urge a precautionary approach to the timing and duration of pile-driving activity supported with long-term targeted monitoring of sensitive receptors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1661-1670
Number of pages10
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2011


  • Herring Clupea harengus
  • Pile driving
  • Indirect effects
  • Trophic interactions
  • Impact assessment

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