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Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Reports

Formal report series, containing results of research and monitoring carried out by Marine Scotland Science


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Seabird Survey Designs for the East Coast of Scotland

Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Vol 11 No 19

In order to understand how marine planning impacts seabirds at sea, it is important to collect key pieces of information about their behaviour, such as where they are and how high they fly. Collecting information on flight heights and population density is often done by plane and with special equipment, which is time consuming and expensive. It is therefore important to plan surveys in the most effective way so that they balance cost, accuracy and precision.

This study was done by DMP Statistics. It estimates the power of different simulated survey designs to detect accurate flight heights and/or changes in population density of seven seabird species and harbour porpoise. This will allow surveyors to make informed decisions about the minimum effort required to collect accurate information for specific species and regions at different times of year.

For abundant species, even surveys with the smallest coverage had high power to detect changes in population density of 20-30% across some seasons and regions. However power to detect changes for less abundant species and during some seasons remained low. Spatio-temporal variation in flight height distributions could be estimated in many cases.

This project was funded by Marine Scotland.

C R Donovan and B A R Caneco. (2020) Seabird Survey Designs for the East Coast of Scotland. Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Vol 11 No 19, 78pp.
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ower to detect changes for some species and seasons is very low, whereas for more abundant species good power to detect 20-30% changes can be achieved with coverage proportions of <10% for some regions and seasons. This translates to modest numbers of days surveying. Robust FHD estimation can also be reasonably achieved for several species with modest amounts of survey effort. Further, spatio-temporally varying FHD estimation can be achieved in many cases.

All results are predicated on species’ density maps and their associated uncertainty. Comparison of sources of density information show marked differences and any advice arising is sensitive to this. The LiDAR surveys in particular are sensitive to the underlying assumed density models, however, indicative figures can be drawn and software tools for bespoke design have been developed and are freely available.

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Marine Scotland
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