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Counts from planes for large scale censusing of seabirds and marine mammals as a basis for studies on environmental impact in offshore areas Flugzeugzaehlungen zur grossflaechigen Erfassung von Seevoegeln und marinen Saeugern als Grundlage fuer Umweltvertraeglichkeitsstudien im Offshorebereich

, : Counts from planes for large scale censusing of seabirds and marine mammals as a basis for studies on environmental impact in offshore areas Flugzeugzaehlungen zur grossflaechigen Erfassung von Seevoegeln und marinen Saeugern als Grundlage fuer Umweltvertraeglichkeitsstudien im Offshorebereich. Seevoegel. September; 232: 38-46

A standard method has been developed for the aerial surveying of birds and marine mammals, which has been adjusted to the distance-sampling method used by ship surveys. Three observers use dictaphones to make continuous recordings of all animals sighted within three predefined bands on both sides of a twin-engined high-winged aeroplane. The aeroplane moves forward along parallel line transects at an altitude of 250 feet (78 m) and a speed of 100 knots (180 km/h). The distance between transects is 2 to 5 km. A GPS-datalogger collects information regarding time and position every 5 seconds along the flight track. A GIS Program will then assign every observation with a geographical position, which will be linked to the time of sighting. The distribution pattern of animals are presented by point maps. The application of this method to the west of the island of Sylt showed a large scaled distribution of important species like di- vers and harbour porpoises. Even within the 2.500 km2 wide study area there was no constant local concentration of these species and no gradient pattern appeared. Aerial surveys have following advantages: 1)A picture of the actual distribution of animals within a very large area can be obtained. This makes it possible to gain a value for parts of the covered area by comparing the distribution of animals. 2) It is possible to obtain values for parts of the covered area for special species without analysing uncertain density values. 3)The method has no influence on the distribution of animals (eg. certain species are prone to following ships) 4) Sea and weather conditions must be good and constant for the method to be used. This makes the data easy to compare between flights. 5) This method is very quick and flexible. Even a short time with good conditions can be used and areas far away from the coast can be reached very quickly.Following disadvantages of this method exist: 1)An exact determination of species is not possible for all species so that some species must be grouped together (eg. Redthroated and Blackthroated Diver; Guillemot and Razorbill) 2) There is only a limited data pool available for comparison. 3)The method can only be used under excellent weather conditions and there are only a few days in winter with such conditions. 4) Density values are hard to analyse and a calibration of this method with the ship surveys has as yet not been carried out. Aerial surveys have become a very important instrument for valueing marine areas with regards to planned offshore wind parks. Only this kind of survey makes it possible to get a small scaled distribution pattern of animals over a large area within a short time period.

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