Project organisation


Project info

Marine spatial planning and cumulative impacts of blue growth on seabirds

Project period: 2021-2025

MARCIS is a collaborative research project where research institutes, together with industry and management authorities, will contribute to ecosystem-based management of marine spatial use and provide a decision-support tool for balancing interests and conflicts in planning processes.

Funding: The Research Council of Norway

Project leader: Tone Kristin Reiertsen (NINA)

Project partners:

Norwegian institute for nature research (NINA)

Environmental Research Institute – University of the Highlands and Islands (ERI-UHI)


The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Total Energies

Mainstream Renewable Power

RWE renewables Sweden

Norwegian Offshore Wind

Norwegian Polar Institute


BirdLife Norway



Norwegian Fishermen's Association

Offshore Norge


Directorate of Fisheries 

Rogaland County Municipality

Norwegian Coastal Administration

Norwegian Environment Agency

Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE)

Institute of Marine Research

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Project organisation

MARCIS is a collaborative research project where research institutes, together with industry and management authorities, will contribute to ecosystem-based management of marine spatial use and provide a decision-support tool for balancing interests and conflicts in planning processes.

The project is organized in six work packages (WPs).

WP1: Spatial overlap between seabirds and human activities

WP leader: Per Fauchald

Co-leader: Arnaud Tarroux

In WP1 we map industrial activities at sea and analyse how these activities overlap with key areas for seabirds. Data on human activities are gathered from various databases, and include fisheries, ship traffic, wind farms, aquaculture and oil and gas installations. The datasets will give detailed information on the spatial and temporal distribution of human stressors that could impact seabirds and the marine ecosystem in general. 

In the SEATRACK project, thousands of seabirds from the North Atlantic have been tracked year-round to identify important seabird habitats. Based on the tracking dataset, detailed maps of the monthly distribution of six seabird species have been developed. By combining the datasets showing the distribution of human activities and of seabirds, we will be able to identify where and when seabird populations might be impacted by specific human activities. Together with stakeholders, future scenarios for the potential development of marine industries will be developed, and we will study how the different scenarios could impact critical seabird habitats in the future.

WP2: Novel marine stressors and receptors

WP leader: Roel May

Co-leader: Anna Nilsson

WP2 will assess sensitivity of seabirds and bird migration to novel marine activities. Potential sites for novel marine activities, such as offshore wind energy development, kelp farming and offshore aquaculture, will be overlapped with seabird distributions from WP1 and bird migration routes derived from ringing data and citizen science data. In WP2, we will set specific focus on the potential effect floating wind turbines may have on birds using the Hywind Tampen offshore wind farm as a case. There we will quantify avoidance behaviour and collision risk in depth using a ROBIN 3D MAX avian radar. This will provide input for calibration of individual sensitivities (WP3) and to assess population vulnerability (WP4) to offshore wind energy development. Finally, we will quantify impacts of offshore wind energy development on bird migration using a spatially explicit Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) based approach.

WP3: Spatial overlap between seabirds and human activities

WP leader: Signe Christensen-Dalsgaard

Co-leader: Elizabeth Masden

In WP3 we will look the individual sensitivity of seabirds to different marine stressors. How seabirds are affected by a given stressor depends on the behaviour of the seabirds species. For instance, some seabird species are attracted to human activity which can lead to e.g. increased risk of being taken as bycatch in fisheries or colliding with offshore wind farms, while other species avoid areas with human activity potentially leading to displacement from important foraging areas. In order to assess how different stressors might affect seabird populations we need to estimate the energetic and demographic consequences of stressor-induced behavioural changes. We will use information from bird-borne loggers (e.g., GPS-, dive- and GLS-loggers), which provide information on species-specific movement- and activity patterns and combine this with metrics of behavioural and energetic responses of seabirds to marine stressors to create agent-based models. The results from these models will be used to estimate the effects of stressors on seabird demography i.e., reduced survival or recruitment. This will be used to assess population vulnerability to the different stressors (WP4).

WP4: Vulnerability of seabird populations to marine stressors and climate change

WP leader: Tone Kristin Reiertsen

Co-leader: Kate Layton-Matthews

In WP4 we will measure the relative impacts of marine stressors: namely offshore wind farms, oil/gas installations, acute oil spills and shipping, prey fluctuations, fisheries, and climate change, on populations of six pelagic seabird species. 

WP4 is split into two main parts. 

The first part involves developing and utilising a quantitative, and comparable, measure of the population-level impacts of the stressors. This will involve modelling of demographic rates (e.g., adult survival and breeding success) and population sizes to gain accurate estimates of the populations state over time. The demographic data for all populations is available through the SEAPOP program. The outcome of this will be an input to the final cumulative impact map developed in WP5, providing information about the sensitivity of each population to the various stressors. 

In the second part, we will use the final product (the MARCIS App) to identify high-risk areas for seabird populations and, for the most at-risk populations, we will develop population forecasts based on scenarios of climate change and marine human activities.  

WP5: Toolbox for Cumulative Impact Assessment and Marine Spatial Planning (MARCIS App)

WP leader: Nina Dehnhard

Co-leader: Frank Hanssen

WP5 aims to develop an application that enables the cumulative impact assessment of marine industrial activities on seabirds. It brings the spatial data of overlap between seabirds’ distribution and marine stressors together with information about the seabirds’ sensitivity to each stressor and specific seabird populations’ vulnerability to area specific marine industrial activities. Using Google Earth Engine, a cloud platform for scientific analysis and visualization of geospatial datasets, we will quantify the overlap between the geographical distribution of seabird populations and areas with human activity and physical installations (e.g. ship traffic and offshore wind farms) from WP1.This spatial information gets combined with information from WP2 and WP3 about the sensitivity of the different seabird species to the different stressors, and information of how vulnerable different populations are through the impact from area specific stressors gained from WP4. This will then result in a map product that visualizes the cumulative impact of the stressors to the seabirds. This way, we will identify areas that are very important (hot spots) or not so important (cold spots) for seabirds, and simulate best case and worst-case scenarios for the location of new stressors, e.g. additional offshore wind farms. Finally, we will test the functionality of the application for other groups of birds for which the distribution data is less good than for seabirds, for example geese or migratory songbirds that cross the area during migration.   

WP6: Stakeholder involvement and science-policy interface

WP leader: Sveinn Are Hanssen 

Co-leader: Tessa Bargmann

WP6 is responsible for stakeholder involvement and outreach in the MARCIS project. The work package will engage all project partners and stakeholders representing relevant sectors and interests from industry, NGOs, management and scientific institutions. Specifically, the WP will facilitate stakeholder involvement in the co-development of possible outcomes for industrial development and applications for marine spatial planning. Stakeholders will be actively engaged to guide and co-design the MARCIS App developed in work package 5. This will help to ensure the useability and usefulness of the App for future applications like environmental risk assessments and marine management planning. The reference group, comprised of project partners and stakeholders will meet on a yearly basis to give input on project activities, discuss issues, results and applications, and provide data where possible. The reference group members will also discuss and suggest relevant stressors and contribute input data on marine industry activities, including overlap in activities. The usability and relevance of the results from the other work packages will be discussed in the reference group and feedback will be given to improve and adjust the developed products. This work package will also coordinate outreach in the MARCIS project, with focus on products developed in other work packages. 

Norwegian Institute for Nature Research

NINA is an independent foundation for nature research and research on the interaction between human society, natural resources and biodiversity.
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