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The Impact of Offshore Wind Farms on Marine Ecosystems: A Review Taking an Ecosystem Services Perspective

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1 Author(s)
Mangi, S.C. ; Plymouth Marine Lab., Plymouth, UK

The rapid increase in renewable energy generation from wind has increased concerns about the impacts that wind arrays have on the marine environment and what these impacts mean for society. One method for identifying the impacts of offshore wind farms (OWFs) on human welfare is through the assessment and valuation of ecosystem services. Using an ecosystem services approach, this paper reviews the impacts of OWFs on the ecosystem services delivered by marine environments. During the construction phase, supporting services such as reduced energy capture and nutrient cycling are changed due to the introduction of hard substrate and the reduction in soft sediment habitat at turbine bases. This may lead to changes in all other ecosystem services, both negative and positive. Quantifying these changes, however, is a challenge partly due to data limitations and a lack of clear understanding of the impacts of OWFs on the marine ecosystems. Scientific effort needs to quantitatively explore the impacts of OWFs on ecosystem functionality and the gathering of data that enables the assessment of changes to ecosystem services. Data needed to better quantify and value the impacts of OWFs on ecosystem services are suggested. The development of methods which integrate socioeconomic valuation of ecosystem services into the evaluation of renewable energy devices compliments efforts in assessing the environmental impacts and should enable a holistic assessment of the impact of renewable energy production and greenhouse gas mitigation technologies on the U.K. carbon footprint.

Published in:

Proceedings of the IEEE  (Volume:101 ,  Issue: 4 )