Localised anthropogenic wake generates a predictable foraging hotspot for top predators

Lilian Lieber, W. Alex M. Nimmo-Smith, James J. Waggitt, Louise Kregting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
209 Downloads (Pure)


With rapid expansion of offshore renewables, a broader perspective on their ecological implications is timely to predict marine predator responses to environmental change. Strong currents interacting with man-made structures can generate complex three-dimensional wakes that can make prey more accessible. Whether localised wakes from man-made structures can generate predictable foraging hotspots for top predators is unknown. Here we address this question by quantifying the relative use of an anthropogenically-generated wake by surface foraging seabirds, verified using drone transects and hydroacoustics. We show that the wake of a tidal energy structure promotes a localised and persistent foraging hotspot, with seabird numbers greatly exceeding those at adjacent natural wake features. The wake mixes material throughout the water column, potentially acting like a prey conveyer belt. Our findings highlight the importance of identifying the physical scales and mechanisms underlying predator hotspot formation when assessing the ecological consequences of installing or removing anthropogenic structures.
Original languageEnglish
Article number123
Number of pages8
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number123
Publication statusPublished - 04 Apr 2019

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