Climate change and renewable energy

Climate change may have significant impacts on waterbird and seabird populations (Maclean & Rehfisch 2008, Maclean et al. 2008a, 2008b, Frederiksen et al. 2007). BTO work has documented how the wintering distributions of waders, such as Curlew, Grey Plover, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit, in the UK and north-west Europe have recently shifted in easterly, northerly or north-easterly directions as mean winter temperatures have increased (Austin & Rehfisch 2005, Maclean et al. 2008c). Click on this link for further BTO work in relation to climate change.

Renewable energy such as wind, wave or tidal power is one way to reduce the amount of CO2 we produce and thus minimise the effects of climate change. However, many renewable energy technologies could potentially impact waterbird and seabird populations. BTO work to address these issues includes:

• Assessments of the potential impacts of tidal power schemes on estuarine waterbirds and other biodiversity, including leading on the waterbirds and biodiversity studies for the recent Severn Tidal Power Strategic Environmental Assessment (Burton et al. 2010, Wright & Clark 2010, Wright et al. 2010);

• Reviewing and providing guidance on survey and analytical methodologies used in Environmental Impact Assessments for offshore wind farm developments (Chamberlain et al. 2006, Maclean et al. 2006, 2007a, 2007b, 2008d, King et al. 2009, Thaxter & Burton 2009);

• Research using tagging technology and modelling to investigate the interactions of seabirds with existing and proposed offshore wind farm developments;

• Running a Secretariat to provide Strategic Ornithological Support Services to the offshore wind industry, identifying and conducting key pieces of research to improve our understanding of how birds might be affected by offshore wind farms.


Austin, G. & Rehfisch, M.M. 2005. Shifting non-breeding distributions of migratory fauna in relation to climatic change. Global Change Biology 11: 31-38.

Burton, N.H.K., Cook, A.S.C.P, Thaxter, C.B., Austin, G.E. & Clark, N.A. 2010. Severn Tidal Power - SEA Topic Paper: Waterbirds. BTO (PB/BV Consortium) Paper to DECC. Download.

Chamberlain, D.E., Rehfisch, M., Fox, T. & Desholm, M. 2006. An assessment of avoidance rates in conjunction with wind turbine collision risk models to predict mortality. Ibis 148: 198-202.

Frederiksen, M., Edwards, M., Mavor, R.A. & Wanless, S. 2007. Regional and annual variation in black-legged kittiwake breeding productivity is related to sea surface temperature. Marine Ecology Progress Series 350: 137-143.

King, S., Maclean, I.M.D., Norman, T. & Prior, A. 2009. Developing guidance on
ornithological cumulative impact assessment for offshore wind farm developers.
COWRIE. Available from

Maclean, I.M.D., Austin, G.E., Rehfisch, M.M., Blew, J., Crowe, O., Delany, S., Devos, K., Deceuninck, B., Gunther, K., Laursen, K., Van Roomen, M. & Wahl, J. 2008c. Climate change causes rapid changes in the distribution and site abundance of birds in winter. Global Change Biology 14: 2489-2500.

Maclean, I.M.D., Frederiksen, M. & Rehfisch, M.M. 2007a. Potential use of population viability analysis to assess the impact of offshore wind farms on bird populations. BTO Research Report 480 Commissioned by COWRIE Ltd. BTO, Thetford. Available from

Maclean, I.M.D. & Rehfisch, M.M. 2008. Guidelines on the measures needed to help birds adapt to climate change. AEWA Technical Series No. 26, African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement Secretariat, Bonn, Germany.

Maclean, I.M.D., Rehfisch, M.M., Delany, S. & Robinson, R.A. 2008a. The Effects of Climate Change on Migratory Waterbirds within the African-Eurasian Flyway. BTO Research Report 486. BTO, Thetford.

Maclean, I.M.D., Rehfisch, M.M., Robinson, R.A. & Delany, S. 2008b. Migratory waterbirds and climate change: summary for policy makers. African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement Secretariat Popular Series, Bonn, Germany. Download.

Maclean, I.M.D., Skov, H. & Rehfisch, M.M. 2007b. Further use of aerial surveys to detect bird displacement by offshore windfarms. BTO Research Report 484 Commissioned by COWRIE Ltd. BTO, Thetford. Available from

Maclean, I.M.D., Skov, H., Rehfisch, M.M. & Piper, W. 2006. Use of aerial surveys to detect bird displacement by offshore wind farms. BTO Research Report 446 Commissioned by COWRIE Ltd. BTO, Thetford. Available from

Maclean, I.M.D., Wright, L.J., Showler, D.A. & Rehfisch, M.M. 2008d. A Review of Assessment Methodologies for Offshore Windfarms. British Trust for Ornithology Report Commissioned by COWRIE Ltd. 

Thaxter, C.B. & Burton, N.H.K. 2009. High Definition Imagery for Surveying Seabirds and Marine Mammals: A Review of Recent Trials and Development of Protocols. British Trust for Ornithology Report Commissioned by COWRIE Ltd. 

Wright, L.J. & Clark, N.A. 2010. Severn Tidal Power - SEA Theme Paper: Biodiversity Effects and Interrelationships. BTO (PB/BV Consortium) Paper to DECC. Download.

Wright, L.J., Atkinson, P.W., Burton, N.H.K. & Clark, N.A. 2010. Severn Tidal Power – A strategic level review of the issues surrounding potential habitat creation mitigation / compensation measures for SPA waterbirds affected by tidal power development on the Severn Estuary. BTO (PB/BV Consortium) Paper to DECC. Download.

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