Robert W Furness

Robert W Furness
University of Glasgow | UofG · College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences

Doctor of Philosophy

About

511
Publications
79,643
Reads
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25,533
Citations
Introduction
Robert W Furness has a honorary position at the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, is a Board member of Scottish Natural Heritage and is Principal Ornithologist at the environmental consultancy MacArthur Green. His main interest is seabird ecology. Current work is mostly in relation to impacts of offshore wind farms on seabirds.
Additional affiliations
October 1978 - present
University of Glasgow
Position
  • Professor of Seabird and Fishing Interactions

Publications

Publications (511)
Article
Quantifying current and future overlap between human activities and wildlife is a core and growing aim of ecological study, spurring ever more spatial data collection and diversification of observation techniques (surveys, telemetry, citizen science, etc.). To meet this aim, data collected via multiple platforms, across different geographical and t...
Article
Ocean circulation connects geographically distinct ecosystems across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales via exchanges of physical and biogeochemical properties. Remote oceanographic processes can be especially important for ecosystems in the Southern Ocean, where the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) transports properties across ocean ba...
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Studying the at-sea movements and behaviour of juvenile seabirds is logistically challenging, but new technologies now allow tracking birds on their first migration, giving a more complete picture of population-level spatial ecology. We investigated the post-fledging migration of juvenile northern gannets Morus bassanus from the world’s largest col...
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The southern North Sea holds the world’s highest concentration of offshore wind farms (OWFs). Northern gannets (Morus bassanus), a species considered at high risk from OWF impacts, show a strong seasonal peak there in November, but it is unclear which populations and age classes are most at risk of collision with wind turbines. We tagged adult and...
Article
Seabirds that forage within tidal streams may be vulnerable to collision or habitat change due to tidal stream turbines. The black guillemot Cepphus grylle is considered to be the seabird species most at risk from tidal stream turbines in UK waters. Using GPS tracking of adult breeding black guillemots, carried out on the island of Stroma, Caithnes...
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The conservation of migratory marine species, including pelagic seabirds, is challenging because their movements span vast distances frequently beyond national jurisdictions. Here, we aim to identify important aggregations of seabirds in the North Atlantic to inform ongoing regional conservation efforts. Using tracking, phenology, and population da...
Article
Climate change and other human activities are causing profound effects on marine ecosystem productivity. We show that the breeding success of seabirds is tracking hemispheric differences in ocean warming and human impacts, with the strongest effects on fish-eating, surface-foraging species in the north. Hemispheric asymmetry suggests the need for o...
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Masting behaviour of Sitka spruce Picea sitchensis may influence Eurasian siskin Spinus spinus breeding ecology as breeding siskins specialize on spruce seeds. We caught siskins and other small passerines over 16 years using mist nets adjacent to large plantations of mature Sitka spruce. We sexed, aged, measured and weighed the birds and collected...
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Migration is a widespread strategy for escaping unfavourable conditions during winter, but the extent to which populations that segregate during the breeding season aggregate during the non-breeding season is poorly understood. Low non-breeding season aggregation may be associated with higher likelihood of overlap with threats, but with fewer popul...
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The occurrence of predation on Black Guillemots Cepphus grylle, of both adults and chicks, is an important consideration when assessing factors affecting breeding success. However, predators are often cryptic and confirmed interactions are difficult to identify. Through the use of camera traps, we recorded predation by mammalian and avian species o...
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Forage fish populations often undergo large and rapid fluctuations in abundance. However, most of their predators are buffered against such fluctuations owing to their slower pace of life, which allows them to maintain more stable populations, at least during short periods of food scarcity. In this study, we investigated top‐down processes exerted...
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Ecosystem‐based management of fisheries aims to allow sustainable use of fished stocks while keeping impacts upon ecosystems within safe ecological limits. Both the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets promote these aims. We evaluate implementation of ecosystem‐based management in six case‐study fisheries...
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Group travel is a familiar phenomenon among birds but the causes of this mode of movement are often unclear. For example, flocking flight may reduce flight costs, enhance predator avoidance or increase foraging efficiency. In addition, naive individuals may also follow older, more experienced conspecifics as a learning strategy. However, younger bi...
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1.The balance between economic growth and wildlife conservation is a priority for many governments. Enhancing realism in assessment of population‐level impacts of anthropogenic mortality can help achieve this balance. Population Viability Analysis (PVA) is commonly applied to investigate population vulnerability, but outcomes of PVA are sensitive t...
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Background In long-lived seabirds that migrate large distances independently of each other, the early part of the breeding season is crucially important for a successful reproductive attempt. During this phase, pair bonds are re-established and partners coordinate their breeding duties. We studied the early breeding season in Thin-billed prions Pac...
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Capsule: Using ring recovery records collected in Britain and Ireland from 1935 to 2015, we investigated philopatry and dispersal in Black Guillemots Cepphus grylle ringed as nestlings and recovered at breeding age during the breeding season. Levels of philopatry and dispersal distance varied between colonies, and were significantly related to lati...
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Understanding anthropogenic impacts are crucial to maintain marine ecosystem health. The North Sea has changed in recent decades, largely due to commercial fishing and climate change. Seabirds can act as useful indicators of these changes. By analyzing n ¼ 20 013 pellets and n ¼ 24 993 otoliths regurgitated by great skuas Stercorarius skua in north...
Article
Assessing the potential impacts of proposed offshore wind farm developments on seabird populations requires estimation of nocturnal flight activity of seabirds for input into collision risk models. One of the seabirds considered most at risk from collision with offshore wind turbines is the northern gannet Morus bassanus. The recommended correction...
Article
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The Gannet Morus bassanus is one of the seabirds considered most at risk from collision mortality at offshore wind farms in UK waters, so a better understanding of migration routes informs assessments of risk for different populations. Deployment of geolocators on breeding adults at the Bass Rock, Scotland, and Skrúður, Iceland, showed that the tim...
Article
Increasing winter temperatures are expected to cause seasonal activity of Ixodes ricinus ticks to extend further into the winter. We caught birds during winter months (November to February) at a site in the west of Scotland over a period of 24 years (1993–1994 to 2016–2017) to quantify numbers of attached I. ricinus and to relate these to monthly m...
Article
Identifying sexes in birds from visual observations could be a useful and inexpensive method. While sexual dichromatism and ornaments are readily used by observers, sexual size dimorphism can also be used to identify sexes in some bird species. This study assessed the applicability of visual observation of size differences to identify sexes in adul...
Article
The black guillemot Cepphus grylle has been identified as a species likely to interact with marine renewable energy devices, specifically tidal turbines, with the potential to experience negative impacts. This likelihood is primarily based on the species being a diving seabird, and an inshore, benthic forager often associating with tidal streams. T...
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Seabirds breeding in tropical environments experience high energetic demands, when foraging in an oligotrophic environment. The globally threatened Trindade petrel Pterodroma arminjoniana has its largest colony in Trindade Island (20°30′S–29°19′W) inside the oligotrophic South Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. Diet sampling methods, geolocator tracking an...
Article
Worldwide, in recent years capture fisheries targeting lower-trophic level forage fish and euphausiid crustaceans have been substantial (∼20 million metric tons [MT] annually). Landings of forage species are projected to increase in the future, and this harvest may affect marine ecosystems and predator-prey interactions by removal or redistribution...
Article
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Non-native predators can cause major declines or even localised extinctions in prey populations across the globe, especially on islands. The removal of non-native predators can, therefore, be a crucial conservation management tool but there can be challenges when they are viewed as charismatic in their own right. Four decades after their introducti...
Article
• In the North Sea, sandeels provide a vital food source for breeding seabirds, but are also the target of an industrial fishery. GPS tracking suggests that the most productive fishing grounds overlap with foraging areas of black‐legged kittiwakes from eastern England, raising the prospect that the fishery could affect the birds. Rising sea tempera...
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Capsule: Long-term population trends of gulls on the Isle of Canna, Scotland, showed a correlation to fish tonnage landed in a nearby port. Aims: To assess whether gull numbers and breeding success at Canna have been influenced by the amount of fish discarded in the area. Methods: We examined data on gull breeding numbers, breeding success and di...
Article
Although studies of wing length in many bird species show longer wings in adults than in juveniles, and increases in wing length among immature age classes of long-lived birds, evidence for an increase in wing length among adult small passerines is very limited. Previous studies of Blue Tits Cyanistes caeruleus have concluded that adults have longe...
Article
Methods to obtain moult data from wild birds have not changed much over the last century and most studies still depend on checking museum specimens or capturing birds. Here we assess the applicability of systematic field photography for detecting and scoring moult in adult Black Skimmers Rynchops niger from southern Brazil. Moult data extracted fro...
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Many marine predators migrate between breeding and non-breeding areas to targe resources that are seasonal but spatio-Temporally predictable, and so are vulnerable to climateinduce changes in prey phenology and abundance. In the Southern Ocean, small petrels ar major consumers, but perturbations in the ecosystem through ocean warming are altering f...
Article
This analysis was developed for the Public Local Inquiry for the proposed Strathy South wind farm. Concerned that the observed flight activity under-estimated the actual collision mortality at this wind farm, an approach was developed that used modelling of known ecology and behaviour of greenshank. Using known and estimated parameters of flight ac...
Chapter
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Seabirds throughout the world are vulnerable to increasing sea temperatures, and associated climate change such as rainfall and storminess, partly through direct effects on bird physiology, but mostly through indirect bottom-up effects, with adverse effects far more frequent than new opportunities. • Some populations have already declined considera...
Article
The effects of marine renewable energy developments (MREDs) on seabirds are uncertain because of the relative infancy of the industry. This uncertainty can delay the consenting process as regulators adopt a precautionary approach. This study uses novel methods to demonstrate uncertainty in two indices that ranked the vulnerability of seabird popula...
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To monitor environmental pollutants in Faroese biota, samples from a top predator were analysed and put into a spatial and temporal context. Analysis of 20 Great Skua eggs sampled in 2012 from the Faroe Islands showed >70 % lower concentrations of legacy persistent organic pollutants (POPs) than in samples analysed in 1977. The 2012 Faroese eggs sh...
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Upwelling regions are highly productive habitats targeted by wide-ranging marine predators and industrial fisheries. In this study, we track the migratory movements of eight seabird species from across the Atlantic; quantify overlap with the Canary Current Large Marine Ecosystem (CCLME) and determine the habitat characteristics that drive this asso...
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Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) are distributed in eastern and western North Atlantic breeding populations. The species’ colonies in Iceland lie between the European and North American colonies. To better understand their migratory patterns and to explore potential connections between the western and eastern populations, geo-location devices were...
Technical Report
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The aim of this literature review is to inform the understanding of the current state of knowledge of selected seabird species (northern gannet Morus bassanus hereafter ‘gannet’, black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla hereafter ‘kittiwake’, lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus, great black-backed gull L. marinus, common guillemot (=common murre)...
Article
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The recent trend for journals to require open access to primary data included in publications has been embraced by many biologists, but has caused apprehension amongst researchers engaged in long-term ecological and evolutionary studies. A worldwide survey of 73 principal investigators (Pls) with long-term studies revealed positive attitudes toward...
Article
Plastic is a common item in marine environments. Studies assessing seabird ingestion of plastics have focused on species that ingest plastics mistaken for prey items. Few studies have examined a scavenger and predatory species that are likely to ingest plastics indirectly through their prey items, such as the great skua (Stercorarius skua). We exam...
Article
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There are standard procedures for collecting data on numbers of birds at sites being proposed for wind farm development and evaluating collision risk for each key species. However, methods do not work well for all species. Where a local bird population is depleted, empirical data cannot provide estimates of likely collision mortality numbers if tha...
Article
Telemetry has become an important method for studying the biology and ecology of animals. However, the impact of tracking devices and their method of attachment on different species across multiple temporal scales has seldom been assessed. We compared the behavioural and demographic responses of two species of seabird, Lesser Black-backed Gull Laru...
Article
SNH's approach to the use of avoidance rates in collision risk modelling at onshore wind farms is set out in guidance on their website. SNH is committed to reviewing avoidance rates for individual species (or species groups) periodically, and as new information becomes available. SNH has been provided with post-construction monitoring reports for o...
Article
Full-text available
The recent trend for journals to require open access to primary data included in publications has been embraced by many biologists, but has caused apprehension amongst researchers engaged in long-term ecological and evolutionary studies. A worldwide survey of 73 principal investigators (Pls) with long-term studies revealed positive attitudes toward...
Article
Full-text available
After flourishing during the second half of the twentieth century, many North Sea seabird populations are now in decline. Much evidence is accumulating that climate change is driving these negative trends in growth rate. Climate-driven changes in the physical environment may affect seabirds both directly and indirectly. Direct impacts such as incre...
Article
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Environmental contaminants may have impacts on reproduction and survival in wildlife populations suffering from multiple stressors. This study examined whether adverse effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) increased with poor population health and breeding conditions in three colonies (60-74°N) of great skua (Stercorarius skua) in the nor...
Article
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Aim Populations of seabirds breeding at different sites can either share their wintering grounds or migrate to distinct sites, and this may have consequences in terms of population differentiation and dynamics. Small burrow-nesting seabirds are often restricted to safe breeding sites on islands, resulting in a patchy breeding distribution. thin-bil...
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Studies of avian migration increasingly use stable isotope analysis to provide vital trophic and spatial markers. However, when interpreting differences in stable isotope values of feathers, many studies are forced to make assumptions about the timing of moult. A fundamental question remains about the consistency of these values within and between...
Article
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This report reviews evidence concerning the populations of seabirds that are present in UK waters during the non-breeding period. It uses the literature to assess the sizes of seabird populations with the aim to use the most up to date available data (usually expressed in terms of numbers of breeding pairs in each country). It uses data on the demo...
Article
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Large-scale and long-term ringing and cohort colour ringing of chicks, combined with trapping of immatures on clubs and adults on nests, allows the age of first breeding by Great Skuas Stercorarius skua to be investigated. Modal and median age of first breeding of Great Skuas at their largest colony (Foula, Shetland) was seven years, but there was...
Technical Report
Background The west coast habitats of the Uists hold concentrations of breeding waders that are exceptional in Scottish, British and wider European contexts. Observed declines in wader populations on South Uist and Benbecula since the 1980s were argued to be largely due to predation of clutches by hedgehogs, which were first introduced to the islan...
Article
Given the conservation importance of Gannet populations in Britain, and concerns about possible adverse impacts of offshore wind farms on Gannets as a result of collision risk, we advocate the establishment of strategic monitoring studies at key colonies. Colour ringing adult Gannets to measure survival at colonies close to and distant from offshor...
Article
Primary, tail and body moult of three seabirds from Tristan da Cunha archipelago were studied by castnetting offshore south Brazil from February 2006 to August 2007. Timing, duration and synchronization of primary and tail moult are described relative to the annual calendar. Body moult overlapped breeding in Atlantic yellow-nosed albatrosses ( Thal...
Article
Marine renewable energy developments (MREDs) are an increasing feature of the marine environment. Owing to the relatively small number of existing developments and the early stage of their associated environmental monitoring programmes, the effects of MREDs on seabirds are not fully known. Our ability to fully predict potential effects is limited b...
Article
We present a Geographic Information System (GIS) tool, SeaMaST (Seabird Mapping and Sensitivity Tool), to provide evidence on the use of sea areas by seabirds and inshore waterbirds in English territorial waters, mapping their relative sensitivity to offshore wind farms. SeaMaST is a freely available evidence source for use by all connected to the...
Article
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Summary Capsule Great Skuas Stercorarius skua wintering in different areas might be exposed to different feeding conditions and therefore spend different amount of time in flight (foraging or searching for food). Aims To compare percent of time daily spent in flight (foraging or searching for food) between different winter areas. Methods In 2008,...
Article
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The presence of one of the largest colonies of House Martins in Europe on the small island of Stora Karlsö led us to investigate the source of their food by analysis of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen. Carbon isotopic values of House Martin nestlings were the same as those of Common Guillemot nestlings fed on marine fish, but differed from l...
Article
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Environmental conditions encountered by migratory seabirds in their wintering areas can shape their fitness. However, the underlying physiological mechanisms remain largely unknown as birds are relatively inaccessible during winter. To assess physiological condition during this period, we measured corticosterone concentrations in winter-grown prima...