Framework for assessing impacts of pile-driving noise from offshore wind farm construction on a harbour seal population

Paul M. Thompson*, Gordon D. Hastie, Jeremy Nedwell, Richard Barham, Kate L. Brookes, Line S. Cordes, Helen Bailey, Nancy McLean

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Offshore wind farm developments may impact protected marine mammal populations, requiring appropriate assessment under the EU Habitats Directive. We describe a framework developed to assess population level impacts of disturbance from piling noise on a protected harbour seal population in the vicinity of proposed wind farm developments in NE Scotland. Spatial patterns of seal distribution and received noise levels are integrated with available data on the potential impacts of noise to predict how many individuals are displaced or experience auditory injury. Expert judgement is used to link these impacts to changes in vital rates and applied to population models that compare population changes under baseline and construction scenarios over a 25. year period. We use published data and hypothetical piling scenarios to illustrate how the assessment framework has been used to support environmental assessments, explore the sensitivity of the framework to key assumptions, and discuss its potential application to other populations of marine mammals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-85
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental impact assessment review
Early online date29 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd. and Beatrice Offshore Wind Ltd. as part of their consent application. We thank all the colleagues from academic, regulatory and industrial organisations who contributed to the discussion and workshops that shaped this framework.


  • Appropriate assessment
  • Disturbance
  • EU habitats directive
  • Marine mammal
  • Offshore wind farm
  • Population consequences


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