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Ecosystem Change, Offshore Wind, Net Gain and Seabirds

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Funding Programme:

Research Programme



Completion Year:

Contact Person(s):

champions [at]

Implementation Period:
Specific Funding Programme:

Funded by Natural Environment Research Council, The Crown Estate’s Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme (OWEC), and Crown Estate Scotland. 


ECOWind £9.5 million
ECOWINGS £2 million

About the Project:

ECOWind is bringing together experts from science, policy and industry to understand how offshore wind affects ecosystems, and the species and habitats that make them, in order to reduce negative impacts on marine life while tackling climate change.

The ECOWind project, ECOWINGS, Ecosystem Change, Offshore Wind, Net Gain and Seabirds, led by Dr Francis Daunt, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, will transform the existing evidence base on the cumulative effects of offshore wind on key seabird species, establishing pathways for strategic compensation to ensure net gain for seabird populations and the wider marine ecosystem, while accounting for the projected effects of climate change.

Uncertainty around impacts on seabird populations remains a key consenting issue for offshore wind development in the UK. Seabirds are impacted through collisions, displacement from feeding grounds, and barrier effects on migratory routes or regular flight paths. The cumulative effects of these impacts, the underlying causal relationships behind them, and the extent of habituation over time are currently not well understood.

The ECOWINGS project will address three research questions which will focus on a region of the UK North Sea, with key species including black-legged kittiwake, common guillemot, razorbill, and Atlantic puffin. ECOWINGS will:

  1. Investigate the effects of offshore wind farms on predator-prey interactions and competition among seabird species, including the potential for habituation over time.
  2. Quantify the cumulative effects of offshore wind on seabirds and the wider ecosystem, and how these effects are scaled up relative to increased offshore wind capacity.
  3. Test a set of compensation scenarios to achieve net environmental gain for seabirds, and create a toolkit to assess whole ecosystem consequences of strategic compensation measures.
  4. Ensure that the strategic compensatory measures are robust to future projections of climate change.

In doing this, ECOWINGS will inform the implementation of policy around offshore wind development, providing strategic advice that safeguards the future welfare of seabird populations and the wider ecosystem whilst removing key barriers to progress towards ambitious energy targets. Working from an initial case study region, the project will use modelling to scale results across the North Sea, and will produce a suite of online tools to inform policy and management.

The StrathE2E (end-to-end) ecosystem modelling is now online:   

Project partners :

Leading partners

  • UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH)
  • Biomathematics & Statistics Scotland (BioSS)
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • University of Strathclyde
  • University of Glasgow
  • National Oceanography Centre (NOC)

Additional partners

  • NatureScot
  • Crown Estate Scotland
  • Marine Management Organisation
  • Neart na Gaoithe Offshore Wind Limited
  • Scottish Renewables