We’re delighted to announce we’ve been awarded funding by the Office of Naval Research to build upon all the work done to date on exploring the Population Consequences of Disturbance (PCoD)!
Over the next three years (2016-2019) we are going to be collaborating with an awesome team of scientists from the University of St Andrews, the University of California Santa Cruz and Washington State University to further develop and improve upon the work done to date on PCoD!
The basic PCOD approach was developed by an international group of experts in the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) Working Group on the Population Consequences of Acoustic Disturbance (PCAD) US National Research Council’s Committee on Characterizing Biologically Significant Marine Mammal Behaviour in its 2005 report. Their work provided the foundation upon which the Interim PCOD framework is built.
The Interim PCOD model was specifically built to assess the impacts of offshore renewable energy development on UK marine mammals. It has been designed to use the kinds of information that are likely to be provided by developers in their Environmental Statements and Habitats Regulations Assessments. The model is freely available and allows the user to predict the population consequences of disturbance and injury on five key priority species of marine mammal found in the UK – bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoise, minke whale, harbour and grey seals.
Since it’s initial development, the interim PCoD framework (for renewables) has been used for offshore wind and tidal energy projects in the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and most recently in North America, exploring the effects of US Navy sonar on beaked whales and sperm whales, shipping on killer whales and different noise sources on beluga whales. There are also researchers all over the world working on various elements of PCoD using different modelling approaches – there are too many to list here, but check back in to the PCoD+ later and we’ll have a repository of key papers.
The new PCOD+ effort looks to build upon the extensive foundation of PCoD projects. However there is a lot of work to be done in this new applied field of marine mammal science. The overall objective of the PCoD+ project is to overcome the most important impediments that have limited the implementation of the PCoD framework. These include:
- • the lack of a standard method for assessing aggregate exposure to disturbance over a biologically-realistic time scale;
• the difficulty in choosing an appropriate model structure;
• the lack of a robust, fully-tested protocol for conducting expert elicitation that can provide reliable estimates of associated uncertainty; and
• the lack of data on the relationship between exposure to disturbance and individual health, and between health and vital rates (e.g. survival, fertility),
We will address these issues by completing five research Tasks. The intention is that we will address these elements via a number of tasks that will ultimately results in a set of research documents that will facilitate the wider application of the PCoD approach.
Our own Cormac Booth is leading the overall PCOD+ research program for the next three years, with Prof. John Harwood as Chief Scientist for the study. Cormac is also responsible for leading a major task – which is exploring how marine mammal monitoring programs can be tailored to assessing the population level effects of disturbance and critically, identify how early warning signals can be detected. This study will identify which potential type of data could be collected using existing and novel technologies and are most suitable for inclusion in a monitoring program. These variables to study will be chosen on the basis of their sensitivity to the changes in vital rates (fertility and survival) predicted to occur as a result of disturbance, and the precision and cost with which they can be measured.
We’re in the process of setting up a PCoD+ webpage where you can keep up to date with the project, its outputs and next steps! Stay tuned!