Drones provide a bird’s eye view of how turbulent tidal currents affect seabirds feeding habits – Science

The foraging behavior of seabirds is significantly affected by turbulence caused by natural coastal features and man-made ocean structures, new research has shown.

In a one-of-a-kind study, scientists from the UK and Germany used drones to provide a synchronized bird’s-eye view of what seabirds see and how their behavior changes accordingly. of the movement of tidal currents under them.

The research focused on the wake of a tidal turbine structure located in a tidal channel – Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland – which has previously been identified as a feeding hotspot for terns.

Through a combination of drone tracking and advanced statistical modeling, he showed that terns were more likely to actively feed on eddies (swirling plates of water).

However, eruptions of water rising (end) before the flight path of the terns prompted them to stay on course on the approach.

Written in the Royal’s Society’s flagship biological research journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers say their findings offer unprecedented insight into how tidal turbulence can impact foraging behaviors.

They also say it potentially gives them the ability to predict how species might respond to environmental changes such as increased future development of oceanic renewable energy sites and climate change.

The study was conducted by researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and Plymouth University (UK) and Bielefeld University (Germany).

Dr Lilian Lieber, researcher at the Bryden Center at Queen’s and principal investigator of the study, said: “Our research underscores the importance of identifying changes in local flow conditions due to ocean energy structures that can change the occurrence, scale and intensity of localized turbulence in the Through fantastic interdisciplinary collaboration, we have been able to track the most prevalent flow characteristics and seabirds at scales hitherto inaccessible, this shed new light on the feeding associations of terns with turbulence. provided a strong physical signal, even at a distance, leading them to study these characteristics. This research can help us predict seabird responses to coastal changes. “

Co-researcher Prof Roland Langrock, professor of statistics and data analysis at Bielefeld, said: “It is extremely exciting that we now have this incredibly detailed data on animal movements, which allows us to study behavioral processes at arbitrarily fine scales of animal decision-making. Although it presented new statistical challenges, the interdisciplinary nature of our project presents a valuable contribution to the emerging field of high-throughput movement ecology. “

Co-investigator Dr Alex Nimmo-Smith, Associate Professor of Marine Physics at Plymouth, led the computational development of automatic and reliable tern tracking using machine learning and mapping of turbulent sub- underlying.

He added, “The drone provided a true bird’s-eye view, allowing us to track the highly localized foraging behavior of the terns and their close association with particular flow characteristics. potential prey (such as small fish) on the surface of the water and trap them there. Therefore, these physical processes provide feeding opportunities for terns. “

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Material provided by Plymouth University. Original written by Alan Williams. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.

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