Annex IV distributes metadata forms (questionnaires) to solicit information from researchers around the world who are exploring the environmental effects of marine renewable energy. This page provides a description and contact information related to the research. Content is updated on an annual basis.

Flow, Water Column & Benthic Ecology 4D (FLOWBEC)

Research Study Annex IV

Title: Flow, Water Column & Benthic Ecology 4D (FLOWBEC)
Start Date:
January 01, 2011
Research End Date:
January 01, 2014
Technology Type:
Info Updated:
February 25, 2016
Study Status: 
Princple Investigator Contact Information: 

Name: Dr. Paul Bell


Project Description: 

FLOWBEC is aimed at improving the understanding of the hydrodynamics at tidal and wave energy sites and how this influences the behaviour of marine wildlife. Research focuses upon measuring flow, the water column and benthic ecology in four dimensions. A wealth of observation techniques will be used to collect data from three marine renewable test sites around the UK, namely EMEC, Wave Hub and Strangford Lough.  Collected data will feed into models of ecological interactions and habitat preferences, allowing predictions of the multiple effects of large MRED arrays. A more detailed project overview is available at

Funding Source: 

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

Location of Research: 

Three key sites around UK and Ireland

Project Aims: 
  1. To improve understanding of the fine scale details of the flow regime in areas of high tidal and wave energy and the effects of Marine Renewable Energy Devices (MREDs) on flow conditions;
  2. To assess the hydrodynamic habitat preferences of various relevant functional ecological groups (benthos, plankton, fish, birds & mammals), and how individual species may use preferred flow conditions for successful feeding, reproduction and other major biological activities; and
  3. To parameterise the flowfield with and without the effects of both single and multiple MRED deployments and include the mechanistic links to ecological interactions that would enable their inclusion in wider area models and to be developed to allow predictions of large arrays of devices on the environment.
Project Progress: 

2011: A marine X-Band radar was deployed at the EMEC tidal test site; coupled with a Wamos recording system this technology records 256 images every 15 minutes out to a range of 4.8km with a spatial resolution of 5-10m. It takes images of the sea surface and, water surface or in the air close to the surface of the water and will remain in place throughout the project. The Wave Hub site is outwith the range of a shore based X-band radar, hence a High Frequency WERA Radar which has a larger range is being used to map waves and currents in the area on a 1km grid.


2012: A subsea sonar system mounted on a frame was deployed at the EMEC tidal test site in June by the Universities of Bath and Aberdeen in conjunction with Marine Scotland Science. This device was put in place to monitor fish and other marine wildlife and to assess how they interact with tidal installations. Operating autonomously for several week and imaging a full ‘acoustic curtain’ along the tidal flow and around tidal devices, this system was the first of its kind. The results are being used to determine how various species use areas of water with different characteristics, and how the area is affected by tidal devices. 


2013: Aspatially highly resolvedbenthic survey around the SeaGen turbine in Strangford Narrows was undertaken using a drop down video system. These data are being analysed by the Queens University Belfast team and will be used along with a fine scale resolution flow model around a conceptualised tidal turbine.


Led by the University of Aberdeen team, the subsea sonar frame was deployed twice in 2013. One of these was within meters of the Atlantis Turbine Pilling, and the other at a control site away from turbine infrastructure. A further two weeks deployment at EMECs wave site, Billia Croo was undertaken. In both deployments shore based observations and radar data was collected giving excellent data returns.

Key Findings: 

The FLOWBEC project allowed the project team to develop an understanding of how the spatially and temporally varying hydrodynamics of an area influence the behaviour of marine predators and their food. Coupled with a developing understanding of how single marine renewable energy devices might alter the flow around them, this will provide a framework to understand the environmental implications as single devices progress to arrays of energy harvesting systems.

Related Publications: 

A full list of publications and conference presentations available to date can be found at the following location:

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