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MacArthur Green Auk research project selected by Vattenfall backed EOWDC

MacArthur Green’s auk research project has been selected as part of a multi-million pound research programme based in Aberdeen Bay. 

Funded by the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, run by Vattenfall, these projects will put Scotland at the forefront of research and development in the industry.

Bob Furness and Mark Trinder will be measuring connectivity between auk special protection area populations and offshore wind farms, and tracking the non-breeding season movements of adult auks. The project aims to demonstrate that this could reduce future uncertainty in impact assessments and improve understanding of how auks engage and co-exist with Offshore Wind Farms. This project will fund a PhD student to work with the research team.

Professor Furness (Principal Ornithologist at MacArthur Green) said,

‘It is very exciting to be able to deploy tags on guillemots and razorbills to learn about their migration routes and wintering areas. Until now, our knowledge of their migrations has mainly come from recoveries of ringed birds found dead on beaches in winter, which can give a very biased picture. This project will allow us to track the routes used by birds, and which areas they spend time in throughout the winter.

We are particularly interested to find out if these migrations differ between birds from different colonies, and whether individuals use different areas from year to year or consistently go back to favourite locations. That knowledge will not only help in assessment of the impacts of offshore wind farms but will also help us understand how best to conserve these internationally important seabird populations that are an iconic part of Scotland’s wildlife heritage’.


T in the Park Osprey Chicks Successfully Fledge!

MacArthur Green has had a busy summer supporting DF concerts and Bluewind Consulting with ornithology clerk of works for the Osprey nesting at the T in the Park site in Strathallan, Perthshire.

As well as monitoring the Osprey, MacArthur Green carried out the terrestrial ecology surveys and post event monitoring for the T in the Park site at Strathallan in Perthshire.

A Wee Bit About The Ospreys From Our Very Own Joyce Reid

The Scottish Osprey population is only about 180-200* pairs, so these birds are still twice as rare as Golden Eagles in the UK. This fragile population is protected by law so careful monitoring was in place at T in the Park to ensure the construction works and noise from the Festival did not cause the breeding attempt to fail.

Osprey's feet are specially adapted, with short spines covering the foot pads and long sharp talons to help grip wet fish. Ospreys can hunt 10 miles from the nest, catching a variety of fish species.

Incubation was shared by both adults, starting in late April and after about 40 days. On the 2nd or 3rd June, the first egg hatched. The male was observed taking prey to his mate on the nest where she fed small pieces to the chick. The 2nd egg hatched a couple of days later.

The number of feeds increased rapidly as the chicks grew, with between two and four fish being brought to the nest each day. The chicks could perch and look out the nest by July and were fully feathered against the rain.

During the T in the Park festival weekend the nesting behaviour and feeding continued as normal, with the birds watching the comings and goings of the festival goers.

By the middle of July the chicks were practicing flapping their wings to strengthen muscles needed for the long migration back to Africa.

In August they were flying around and eating fish unaided, they just need to learn to catch them now!

The UK's Ospreys winter mostly in Senegal, The Gambia or Mauritania and they fly south in late August. The adults will migrate several weeks before the young, who have to find their own way back to Africa.

Our thanks to Joyce Reid for the article and photos. Thanks also to Sarah Sanders for her photos. 

(*The Birds of Scotland SOC 2007)

Adult Osprey devours its fish!


Fledged junior Osprey July 2016


Adult Osprey enjoys tree top view!

SNH Appoint MacArthur Green to Carry Out Population Viability Analysis of Sula Sgeir Gannet

Every year there is a harvest of pre-fledged northern gannets, known as gugas, from the island of Sula Sgeir. Questions have been asked about the sustainability of the Sula Sgeir gannet population given the current level of harvesting permitted.

SNH has concluded that the current level of harvest is not likely to affect the long term sustainability of the Sula Sgeir gannet population. 

To read the report in full, please see here:

Effects of Marine Renewable Energy Developments on Seabirds

A new paper has been published in Marine Policy by Helen Wade, EA Masden, AC Jackson and Prof. Robert Furness, considering the uncertainty in data regarding effects of marine renewable energy developments (MREDs), and those of vessels and helicopters, on seabirds.

The indices considered in this publication present important information for the application of vulnerability indices ranking seabird vulnerability to MREDs. Uncertainty measures can inform MRED impact assessment processes by identifying species of potential concern that lack data, and contribute to identifying post-consent monitoring and strategic research priorities. The combined uncertainty and vulnerability indices could be employed to complement MRED site characterisation and inform sectoral plans by identifying areas supporting species that may be sensitive to MREDs. Given the evolving understanding of species’ responses to MREDs, these indices should be viewed as a work in progress and would benefit from regular consolidation with new information.




CalMac appoint MacArthur Green and UWS to looking at next 25 Years' Argyll and Clyde Marine Economy

The UK's largest ferry network operator, Caledonian MacBrayne, has commissioned a report by MacArthur Green and University of West of Scotland on the likely changes within the Scottish marine environment over the next 25 years.

The hope is that the report will feed into the development of Scotland’s first ever National Marine Plan and into the Regional Marine Plans for the Argyll and Clyde sea areas. 

Marine plans

Until recently each different marine industry, such as fishing, or transport, or aquaculture, developed separately. Each one faced challenges and took advantage of opportunities on its own. The National Marine Plan (NMP), launched in March last year, is designed to change all that. 

The NMP basically creates a planning framework for all marine activity in Scottish waters. It brings the full range of marine industries together, so that the requirements of all sectors can be considered and supported under one plan. It also ensures that environmental protection – including climate change issues - is taken into account in all marine decision making.

Locally focused Regional Marine Plans are also in the pipeline, one for each of the eleven Scottish Marine Regions. They will be created by local Marine Planning Partnerships made up of key local stakeholders, but so far only one has been set up – in Shetland. The second Partnership, for the Clyde region, is in the process of being established.

The new framework is, however, dependent on everyone working together. Key stakeholders from a wide range of marine industries will have to work in partnership to identify common goals and areas of conflict – and resolve them.

As part of this, Caledonian MacBrayne has published a report looking at the opportunities and challenges that the marine economy is likely to face now that the NMP is in place.

The Caledonian MacBrayne report

The report focuses on the two marine regions of Argyll and Clyde, which together make up the bulk of the west coast of Scotland. This is an extensive area: Argyll alone has a coastline longer than that of France.  The report also concentrates on three specific marine industries: aquaculture, tourism & recreation and marine traffic.

It looks at the framework of laws and policies that applies to these sectors and asks ‘where are we now?’ in terms of marine economic development. It examines current research and projections and sets out the forecasts for each sector. It then considers the opportunities and challenges revealed by these forecasts and recommends actions that will support future sustainable development.


In the aquaculture sector, for example, researchers from environmental consultancy MacArthur Green found a number of serious challenges. These include the industry’s reliance on only two major products (salmon and blue mussel) and planning constraints in getting new developments approved.

But the report also identifies a number of key opportunities, which could help to overcome the challenges and make Scottish aquaculture more sustainable.

It suggests that better marketing would be beneficial, raising awareness of the cleanliness of Scottish marine environment, while diversification into new products such as sea snails, sea urchins or sea weeds would make the industry more secure. Research and development into aquafeeds could help too, by reducing costs and improving nutritional value, while proper monitoring would provide early warning of dangerous algal and jellyfish blooms.

The report even suggests that this monitoring could be carried out by other marine users, such as ferry operators, in partnership with the aquaculture sector.

Tourism & recreation

Researchers from the University of the West Coast of Scotland (UWS) assessed the issues relating to tourism & recreation and marine traffic for the report.

They found that tourism & recreation offers many opportunities for future growth, particularly in relation to sailing tourism, wildlife tourism, cruise ship tourism and adventure tourism.

However, this is likely to result in greater competition for resources, such as access to shore front or to fish stocks, says the report. It is also likely to result in more damage to the environment, and will be hampered by a lack of provision of services, such as access to the internet, and a lack of affordable housing for local residents. There are also likely to be difficulties in developing the necessary infrastructure.

The report suggests that these problems could be mitigated or overcome by improved planning in this area. A comprehensive marketing strategy would also help, raising awareness not only of visitor attractions, but also of the environmental impact of tourism and what visitors can do to help.

Marine Traffic

Turning to marine traffic, the report finds that this is likely to increase in the Clyde and Argyll region over the next 25 years. Much of the growth is likely to be caused by the development of the cruise ship and sailing tourism sectors, but could also be a possible consequence of climate change. The report suggests that new international shipping routes may open up if the arctic ice mass reduces much further – and Clyde and Argyll are ideally placed to exploit them.

This growth will inevitably cause problems. According to the UWS researchers, an increase in marine traffic could result in congestion and an increase in marine noise pollution and emissions, not to mention the need for substantial infrastructural port development to meet growing demand.

The report warns that proper planning will be essential in order to manage these risks and phase in the necessary developments. Research into greener technologies will also help to reduce noise and emissions.

Working together

The report concludes by recognising the difficulties ahead: it will not be easy to create regional plans in an industry with such a diverse range of sectors, each with their own interests and needs. It suggests the use of mental modelling as way forward, helping to understand and resolve any conflicts, and to identify areas of common mutual interest.

At stake, after all, is the Scottish Government’s Vision for the marine environment: “Clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse seas; managed to meet the long term needs of nature and people.”

Caledonian MacBrayne, along with many other stakeholders, is working towards that goal.

Read the report here