What is ProcBe?
The ProcBe (Procellariiform Behaviour and Demographics) project forms part of the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme, led by The Crown Estate in partnership with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. The Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme is an ambitious strategic research and data-led Programme. Its aim is to facilitate the sustainable and coordinated expansion of offshore wind to help meet the UK’s commitments to low carbon energy transition whilst supporting clean, healthy, productive and biologically diverse seas.
The ProcBe (Procellariiform Behaviour and Demographics) project aims to improve our understanding of the at-sea behaviour, distribution and demography of three of the UK Procellariform species – Manx shearwater and both European and Leach’s storm-petrels – through the use of existing data combined with novel research.
The ProcBe project seeks to fill critical evidence gaps around how Procellariformes might interact with offshore wind farms and improve demographic rate and population modelling approaches. This will help to improve confidence in offshore wind impact assessments and allow expansion of offshore wind developments in the Celtic and Irish Seas and the west coast of Scotland in a sustainable way.
European storm-petrels and Manx shearwaters will be tracked to improve understanding of at-sea distribution and flight behaviour (© Lewis Thomson).
This ambitious 3-year project, led by JNCC in partnership with the University of Oxford, RSPB and University of Gloucestershire, will commence in November 2023 and be completed by December 2026.
This project is part of a series of projects funded by the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme which seek to reduce uncertainty on seabirds and offshore wind farms. Ongoing projects addressing the theme of “Improving understanding of environmental impacts” include POSEIDON and PrePARED and the most recent main call has seen successful bids for further projects PrediCtOr, ReSCUE and Strategic Compensation Pilots for Offshore Wind (see The Crown Estate press release for further project details).
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 (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.
Demographic rates of Manx shearwaters will be refined using existing datasets (© Lewis Thomson).
Evidence gaps exist around the potential interactions between shearwaters and storm-petrels and offshore wind developments, particularly when considering behaviour in adverse weather conditions (e.g. high winds) and for species such as storm-petrels which are difficult to detect using current survey methods (e.g. Digital Aerial Surveys). 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 where these species are found in some of the highest densities in the UK (OW leasing rounds: Round 4 & ScotWind).
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, 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 behaviour.