Skip to Content

The ProcBe (Procellariiform Behaviour and Demographics) Project

By Orea Anderson (Senior Marine Ornithologist) and Bryony Baker (Marine Ornithologist)

MarineOffshore Offshore windProcBe

Our latest blog post is from Orea Anderson (Senior Marine Ornithologist) and Bryony Baker (Marine Ornithologist), from our Marine Species Team. The team have recently been awarded funding for a new 3-year project, called ProcBe, through the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme.

Manx shearwater (Lewis Thomson)JNCC's Marine Species Team ornithologists are thrilled that they have recently been successful in a bid to secure funding for an exciting new 3-year research project on UK Procellariiformes (shearwaters and storm-petrels) – ProcBe (Procellariiform Behaviour and Demographics). The funding is from the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme, an ambitious strategic research and data-led Programme being led by The Crown Estate in partnership with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

The ProcBe project will explore the interactions between Manx shearwaters and storm-petrels and offshore wind farms. The 3-year project will start in November 2023 and will be led by JNCC with three project partners; University of Oxford, the RSPB, and University of Gloucestershire.

Offshore wind farms (OWFs) have the potential to impact seabirds in a number of ways, including through mortality caused by collision, displacement from foraging areas, and by acting as barriers to movement.  Evidence gaps exist around the potential interactions between shearwaters and storm-petrels and offshore wind (OW) developments. This is particularly important given the proposed expansion of offshore wind (OW) developments into the Celtic and Irish Seas and off the west coast of Scotland (OW leasing rounds: Round 4 & Scotwind), where these species are found in some of the highest densities in the UK.

The UK is home to an internationally important 70 to 90% of the global population of breeding Manx shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus), as well as around 10% and 0.5% of the global European storm-petrels (Hydrobates pelagicus) and Leach’s storm-petrels (Hydrobates leucorhous) respectively. Despite the importance of these species in the UK, relatively little is known about their populations, demography and at-sea behaviour as they are difficult to study. This is partly due to their breeding behaviour (they are nocturnal and nest in burrows on offshore islands) but also, in the case of storm-petrels, their small size has prevented the use of certain techniques such as GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking until recently. 

There were several requirements for a project bid, including but not limited to, addressing a priority evidence gap as identified in the OWEER (Offshore Wind Environmental Evidence Register), to help reduce uncertainty in Offshore Wind impact assessments (EIAs), include some form of novel/new research and consider floating wind. Through a combination of strategic tracking of birds, behavioural observations, and population modelling, using existing and novel technologies and techniques, ProcBe will seek to fill critical knowledge gaps.

The project has the potential to make significant advances in our understanding of the behaviour of some of the UK’s most important seabirds around offshore wind farms. It will help the UK to meet its dual ambitions for achieving Net Zero and nature recovery by informing the sustainable acceleration of renewable energy development. ProcBe is fully aligned with the ambitions in JNCC’s strategy, contributing knowledge for implementing our Strategic Priorities, including responding to the global biodiversity crisis, aligning nature and climate change actions, and supporting transitions to sustainable blue/green economies.

The evidence gaps ProcBe will seek to improve our understanding of were informed by the work carried out by the Offshore Wind Strategic Monitoring and Research Forum (OWSMRF), an industry-led collaborative forum that aims to better understand the impact of large-scale offshore wind development on marine birds. The Forum recently completed a continuation phase during which Procellariiformes were identified as a potential future OW consent risk, with key knowledge gaps and possible research opportunities laid out in JNCC Report 719: Towards better estimates of Manx shearwater and European storm-petrel population abundance and trends, demographic rates and at-sea distribution and behaviourJNCC are grateful to the OWSMRF offshore wind developers for supporting the development of a successful ProcBe research proposal in collaboration with all project partners.

Find out more about the project on our ProcBe webpage.

Back to top