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Title: Wildlife Densities and Habitat Use Across Temporal and Spatial Scales on the Mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. Final Report to the Department of Energy EERE Wind & Water Power Technologies Office

The Mid-Atlantic Baseline Studies Project helped address environmental barriers to offshore wind energy development in the mid-Atlantic region by providing regulators, developers, and other stakeholders with comprehensive baseline ecological data and analyses. Project funders and collaborators from a range of academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, federal agencies, foundations, and private companies came together to study bird, sea turtle, and marine mammal distributions, densities, and movements on the mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf between 2012 and 2014. Specific project activities and goals included the following: (1) Conduct standardized surveys to quantify bird, sea turtle, and marine mammal densities seasonally and annually throughout the study region and identify important habitat use or aggregation areas. (2) Develop statistical models to help understand the drivers of wildlife distribution and abundance patterns. (3) Use individual tracking data for several focal bird species to provide information on population connectivity and individual movements that is complementary to survey data. (4) Identify species that are likely to be exposed to offshore wind energy development activities in the mid-Atlantic study area. (5) Develop U.S.-based technological resources and assessment methods for future monitoring efforts, including a comparison of high resolution digital video aerial surveys to boat-based surveys. (6) Help meet data needsmore » associated with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Marine Mammal Protection Act, and Endangered Species Act requirements, by contributing several years of data and analysis towards future Environmental Impact Statements. This report consists of six parts: Project overview (executive summary and Chapters 1-2); Examining wildlife distributions and relative abundance from a digital video aerial survey platform (Chapters 3-6); Examining wildlife distributions and abundance using boat-based surveys (Chapters 7-12); Integrating data across survey platforms (Chapters 13-19); Individual movements and habitat use for focal bird species (Chapters 20-25); and Nocturnal avian migration monitoring (Chapters 26-27). Boat-based and digital video aerial surveys each had specific advantages and disadvantages, but were largely complementary (Chapters 1, 5, 13-14). Digital aerial surveys were particularly useful for covering offshore areas at broad scales, where general distributions of taxonomic groups were a priority; boat surveys could provide more detailed data on species identities and behaviors, but were more limited in geographic scope due to their slower survey pace. The mid-Atlantic study area was important for wintering and breeding taxa, and its location also made it a key migratory corridor. There was considerable variation in species composition and spatial patterns by season, largely driven by dynamic environmental conditions (Chapters 12, 15, and 20-22). Habitat gradients in nearshore waters, however, were reliable influences on productivity and patterns of species distributions and abundance. Areas within about 30-40 km of the coast offshore of the mouths of Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, as well as to the south of Delaware Bay along the coast, were consistent hotspots of abundance and species diversity, regardless of survey methodology or analytical approach (Chapters 2, 12, 17). Inter-annual variation was substantial, and the importance of certain environmental variables in predicting animal distributions indicates that these species may well respond to future environmental shifts brought about by anthropogenic effects and climatic change. This study is an important first step, however, towards understanding how bird, marine mammal, and sea turtle populations in the mid-Atlantic may be exposed to offshore wind energy development and other anthropogenic activities. The results of this study provide insight to help address environmental permitting requirements for current and future offshore development projects, and serve as a starting point for more site-specific studies, risk analyses, and evaluation of potential measures to avoid and minimize those risks.« less
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  1. Biodiversity Research Institute, Portland, ME (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
BRI 2015-11
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Resource Relation:
Related Information: Williams, K.A., I.J. Stenhouse, E.E. Connelly, and S.M. Johnson. 2015. Mid-Atlantic Wildlife Studies: Distribution and Abundance of Wildlife along the Eastern Seaboard 2012-2014. Biodiversity Research Institute. Portland, Maine. Science CommunicationsSeries BRI 2015-19. 32 pp.
Research Org:
Biodiversity Research Institute, Portland, ME (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Wind and Water Technologies Office (EE-4W)
Contributing Orgs:
Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources; HiDef Aerial Surveying, Ltd.; Capt. Brian Patteson, Inc.; Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; US Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Birds; Sea Duck Joint Venture
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 17 WIND ENERGY Baseline study; bird; Delaware; environment; marine mammal; Maryland; mid-Atlantic; offshore wind; sea turtle; survey; tracking; Virginia; wind energy; Wind Energy Area