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Vulnerability Assessment among Marine Birds of the California Current System associated with Offshore Wind Energy Infrastructure

August 8, 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center (USGS-WERC) was requested by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to create a database for marine birds that would allow quantification and species ranking regarding vulnerability to offshore wind energy infrastructure (OWEI). This was needed so that resource managers could evaluate potential impacts associated with siting and construction of OWEI within the California Current System (CCS) section of the Pacific Offshore Continental Shelf, including California, Oregon, and Washington. Along with its accompanying Open File Report (OFR), this comprehensive database can be used (and modified or updated) to quantify marine bird vulnerability to OWEIs in the CCS at the population level. For 81 marine bird species present in the CCS, we generated numeric scores to represent vulnerability of collision and displacement associated with potential OWEI. The metrics used to produce these scores includes global population size, proportion of the population in the CCS, threat status, adult survival, breeding and feeding score, annual occurrence in the CCS, nocturnal and diurnal flight activity, macro-avoidance behavior, flight height, and habitat flexibility can be updated and adjusted as new data become available. The scoring methodology was peer-reviewed to evaluate if the metrics identified and the values generated were appropriate for each species considered. The numeric vulnerability scores in this database can readily be applied to areas in the CCS with known species distributions and where offshore renewable energy development is being considered. We hope that this information can be used to assist meaningful planning decisions that will impact seabird conservation.