Harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) and wind farms: a case study in the Dutch North Sea

M. Scheidat, J. Tougaard, S.M.J.M. Brasseur, J. Carstensen, T. van Polanen Petel, J. Teilmann, P.J.H. Reijnders

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66 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The rapid increase in development of offshore wind energy in European waters has raised concern for the possible environmental impacts of wind farms. We studied whether harbour porpoise occurrence has been affected by the presence of the Dutch offshore wind farm Egmond aan Zee. This was done by studying acoustic activity of porpoises in the wind farm and in two reference areas using stationary acoustic monitoring (with T-PODs) prior to construction (baseline: June 2003 to June 2004) and during normal operation of the wind farm (operation: April 2007 to April 2009). The results show a strong seasonal pattern, with more activity recorded during winter months. There was also an overall increase in acoustic activity from baseline to operation, in line with a general increase in porpoise abundance in Dutch waters over the last decade. The acoustic activity was significantly higher inside the wind farm than in the reference areas, indicating that the occurrence of porpoises in this area increased as well. The reasons of this apparent preference for the wind farm area are not clear. Two possible causes are discussed: an increased food availability inside the wind farm (reef effect) and/or the absence of vessels in an otherwise heavily trafficked part of the North Sea (sheltering effect)
Original languageEnglish
Article number025102
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume6
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Keywords

  • echolocation activity
  • underwater noise
  • t-pods
  • behavior
  • turbines
  • impact
  • waters

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