Assessing underwater noise levels during pile-driving at an offshore windfarm and its potential effects on marine mammals

Helen Bailey, Bridget Senior, Dave Simmons, Jan Rusin, Gordon Picken, Paul M Thompson

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Marine renewable developments have raised concerns over impacts of underwater noise on marine species, particularly from pile-driving for wind turbines. Environmental assessments typically use generic sound propagation models, but empirical tests of these models are lacking. In 2006, two 5 MW wind turbines were installed off NE Scotland. The turbines were in deep (>40 m) water, 25 km from the Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation (SAC), potentially affecting a protected population of bottlenose dolphins. We measured pile-driving noise at distances of 0.1 (maximum broadband peak to peak sound level 205 dB re 1 µPa) to 80 km (no longer distinguishable above background noise). These sound levels were related to noise exposure criteria for marine mammals to assess possible effects. For bottlenose dolphins, auditory injury would only have occurred within 100 m of the pile-driving and behavioural disturbance, defined as modifications in behaviour, could have occurred up to 50 km away.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)888-897
Number of pages10
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number6
Early online date11 Feb 2010
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010



  • ambient noise
  • bottlenose dolphins
  • marine protected area
  • noise impacts
  • renewable energy

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