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CRESLI Mini-conference on Offshore Energy Development

ABSTRACTS and PRESENTATIONS

Presenters:


ABSTRACTS and PRESENTATIONS

Impacts on Birds:

Abstract:  Wind generated electricity promises to become an important source of energy in the near future but potentially negative effects on migratory birds in the marine environment are virtually unknown.  Although a variety of information is available on the distribution and abundance of some sea- and waterbirds, flight behavior and migration routes for many species still need to be determined. The marine environment presents unique logistics and difficult conditions that have hindered scientific investigations.  Proposed turbine projects offshore have created an urgent need to assess the influence of these structures on bird species that inhabit the coastal and nearshore environment.  A USGS project, including a variety of partners, is working to locate, assess, and compile all available information on both the ecology (e.g., migration routes, nesting areas, and feeding habits) and physical parameters for migratory birds offshore.  A database of this information, used in a modeling context, will allow scientists and managers to focus future data collection needs, future model development criteria, and identify gaps in knowledge of offshore birds critical to evaluating future wind energy projects. This approach can be used to model species occurrence and will allow resource managers and the wind turbine industry the ability to better predict avian distribution and the potential effects of wind turbine siting.

PRESENTATION: Contact the presenters by clicking on their names above.


Impacts on  Pinnipeds: Greg Early (AIS, Inc.)

Abstract:  Pinnipeds (seals) are the most abundant marine mammals in the northeast and in the world.  Four species of seals frequent local waters and shores and several other species are reported occasionally.  Two species, harbor and gray seals, reproduce in this range.  Risks to these animals from energy development, both direct and indirect, have been reported from around the world.  Impacts from oil spills have been documented in Alaska, and the effects of wind farm development on gray seal habitat has been documented in Europe.

Despite these studies, however, relatively little is known about these species along the Northeast coast of the U.S.  Although populations appear to be robust and are likely growing, there is little known precisely about their habitat use and distribution, except in the most general terms.  Because they are the most numerous marine mammal, they are likely to be the most widely effected by the impacts of offshore energy development.  They are highly visible and relatively easy to study (compared to other marine mammals) and may prove to be useful bio-indicators.

PRESENTATION: Contact the presenters by clicking on his name above.

 


Impacts on Cetaceans: Sharon Young (Humane Society, US)

Abstract:  Although wind energy generating plants are increasingly common across the landscape of U.S., none have been sited as yet in off shore locations.  In contrast, there are a number of such facilities in Europe. At this time in the U.S.,  two projects have been proposed for permitting: one in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts and the other off the southern shore of Long Island. Additional proposals are only conceptual.

There are three phases in the life cycle of a wind energy generating facility during which adverse impacts can occur: construction, operation and decommissioning. At these different phases, direct and indirect impacts may result from noise, electromagnetic fields, vessel traffic, pollutants, alteration of the benthos and habitat degradation or exclusion. The degree of impact can depend on the type of turbine, the method of installation, site characteristics and the layout and size of the facility. Some marine mammal species may be more vulnerable to impacts than others. Knowing about species composition and the nature and seasonality of habitat use are key to predicting likely impacts or framing questions that need further data collection.

This presentation will examine what we can learn from the European experience about assessing impacts to marine mammals and planning for mitigation.  The presentation will also identify questions related to impacts that remain to be answered if wind energy generating facilities are to be sited on the outer continental shelf of the U.S.  There is a clear need for strategic planning for the siting of these facilities and we will discuss the interplay of the pragmatic needs of the industry and the conservation needs of protected species. There is, additionally, a legal framework in which impacts to marine mammals must be considered including the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, and there will be an overview of the requirements of these Acts.

PRESENTATION: Contact the presenters by clicking on his name above.


Impact on Turtles: Dr. Russell Burke (Hofstra University) and Samuel Sadove (CRESLI)

Abstract:  Diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) are the “other” sea turtles: a species of fairly small turtles that lives along the U.S. Atlantic coast from Cape Cod to Corpus Christi.  They apparently rarely move far from the coast, and commonly inhabit Spartina marshes and mangrove swamps.  Like other turtles, their persistence is highly reliant on the adult survival, so any factor that reduces adult survivorship can quickly and dramatically impact terrapin populations.  Because of their conservation status, terrapins are currently protected by state laws throughout their range.

In the early 1900’s terrapin populations were greatly reduced due to heavy harvesting for food.  Harvest slowed considerably by 1925, and remained at a low level until recently, when demand for the Asian food market re-energized large-scale harvest.   Their main threats now are coastal development, loss of critical habitat, harvesting for the food market, incidental captures in crab traps, and heavy predation on nests. 

Assessment of terrapin population trends requires long term, intensive, and site-specific research, so there are no reliable data available on regional or range-wide trends.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that northeastern terrapin populations have recovered somewhat from early 20th century levels, but absence of reliable population counts for any terrapin population in the region limits the generality of these reports. 

Three other major gaps in our knowledge of terrapins concern their movements, habitat use, and response to pollution.  Little is known about adult movements on an annual or seasonal basis.  It is not clear how far offshore individuals move routinely, but the limited data available suggests they stay around specific Spartina marshes and most of their movements are between different Spartina marshes and nesting areas.  Any factors that reduced their ability to move safely between Spartina marshes and nesting areas could have a severe impact on terrapin populations.  For example, increased boat traffic could become a serious cause of mortality.

Many important details of how terrapin use Spartina habitat are unknown.  For example, it appears that they depend on Spartina marshes as places to forage for food, but no dietary studies have been done in the Northeast to identify terrapin prey in this region.  Furthermore, no data are available to estimate the density of terrapins or their prey that any given patch of marsh can support, so it is impossible to hypothesize how incremental loss (or addition) of marshes will affect terrapin populations. 

Although terrapins live in some extremely polluted environments, their sensitivity to pollutants is untested and unknown.  Studies of other turtles suggests that adult may be highly tolerant of some pollutants, but that high levels of pollutants in adults leads to reproductive failures.

Given the lack of reliable knowledge of terrapin population trends, local studies of movement patterns or habitats use, or pollution sensitivity; it is very difficult to speculate meaningfully about the possible impact of the proposed wind farms or the proposed LNG terminal.  If these projects increase boat traffic or reduce Spartina marshes, certainly they could have a negative affect on terrapin populations.  If they result in increased pollution, for example through either major spills or regular minor spills, they could have subtle effects on population recruitment.  However, appropriate data could be collected so that in the future, the impact of such developments would be better understood and predicted.

PRESENTATIONS:

  1. Offshore Energy Development and Diamondback Terrapins
  2. Marine Turtles of The New York Bight: Impacts of offshore energy development

 

 

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