Offshore wind farms contribute to epibenthic biodiversity in the North Sea

R. ter Hofstede*, F. M.F. Driessen, P. J. Elzinga, M. Van Koningsveld, M. Schutter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

The North Sea was once abundantly covered with hard substrates such as oyster beds, coarse peat banks and glacial erratics, providing habitat to a rich community of marine species. Most of these habitats were destroyed by bottom-trawl fisheries over the past century, and today, the seabed hosts a relatively poor species community. Emerging offshore windfarms include the re-introduction of hard substrate by means of scour protection around the foundation of wind turbines. It is assumed that the new habitat will contribute to marine biodiversity, and this study aims to demonstrate that. Video data were collected using a Remotely Operated Vehicle in four wind farms in the southern North Sea. A quantitative assessment was made to determine the effect of scour protection on community structure. The assessment revealed distinct community clusters for geographic location and seabed type. Windfarms closely located to each other had a more similar epibenthic community compared to those further away. The epibenthic community at the rocky armour layer of the scour protection had a different species composition and a higher species abundance than the one at the sandy seabed surrounding it. Species diversity by means of richness, evenness and the Shannon diversity index was not consistently higher or lower for the communities at the different seabed types. This study shows that marine life inhabits scour protection in offshore wind farms and that it is different from the community living at the surrounding seabed. Knowing the potential epibenthic community structure at and around a scour protection supports the development of new wind farms that include components to enhance their ecological value. Herewith, our study contributes to efforts to restore biodiversity in the North Sea.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102229
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sea Research
Volume185
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • Benthos
  • Biodiversity
  • Offshore wind
  • Restoration management
  • ROV videos

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