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Collision and displacement vulnerability among marine birds of the California Current System associated with offshore wind energy infrastructure

October 27, 2016

With growing climate change concerns and energy constraints, there is an increasing need for renewable energy sources within the United States and globally. Looking forward, offshore wind-energy infrastructure (OWEI) has the potential to produce a significant proportion of the power needed to reach our Nation’s renewable energy goal. Offshore wind-energy sites can capitalize open areas within Federal waters that have persistent, high winds with large energy production potential. Although there are few locations in the California Current System (CCS) where it would be acceptable to build pile-mounted wind turbines in waters less than 50 m deep, the development of technology able to support deep-water OWEI (>200 m depth) could enable wind-energy production in the CCS. As with all human-use of the marine environment, understanding the potential impacts of wind-energy infrastructure on the marine ecosystem is an integral part of offshore wind-energy research and planning. Herein, we present a comprehensive database to quantify marine bird vulnerability to potential OWEI in the CCS (see These data were used to quantify marine bird vulnerabilities at the population level. For 81 marine bird species present in the CCS, we created three vulnerability indices: Population Vulnerability, Collision Vulnerability, and Displacement Vulnerability. Population Vulnerability was used as a scaling factor to generate two comprehensive indicies: Population Collision Vulnerability (PCV) and Population Displacement Vulnerability (PDV). Within the CCS, pelicans, terns (Forster’s [Sterna forsteri], Caspian [Hydroprogne caspia], Elegant [Thalasseus elegans], and Least Tern [Sternula antillarum]), gulls (Western [Larus occidentalis] and Bonaparte’s Gull [Chroicocephalus philadelphia]), South Polar Skua (Stercorarius maccormicki), and Brandt’s Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) had the greatest PCV scores. Brown Pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis) had the greatest overall PCV score. Some alcids (Scripps’s Murrelet [Synthliboramphus scrippsi], Marbled Murrelet [Brachyramphus marmoratus], and Tufted Puffin [Fratercula cirrhata]), terns (Elegant and Least Lern), and loons (Yellow-billed [Gavia adamsii] and Common Loon [G. immer]) had the greatest PDV scores. Ashy Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma homochroa) had the greatest overall PDV score. To help inform decisions that will impact seabird conservation, vulnerability assessment results can now be combined with recent marine bird at-sea distribution and abundance data for the CCS to evaluate vulnerability areas where OWEI development is being considered. Lastly, it is important to note that as new information about seabird behavior and populations in the CCS becomes available, this database can be easily updated and modified.

Publication Year 2016
Title Collision and displacement vulnerability among marine birds of the California Current System associated with offshore wind energy infrastructure
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161154
Authors Josh Adams, Emily C. Kelsey, Jonathan J. Felis, David M. Pereksta
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2016-1154
Index ID ofr20161154
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center