Pacific Offshore Wind Environmental Research Recommendations

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The U.S. Offshore Wind Synthesis of Environmental Effects Research (SEER) effort compiled a database of research recommendations, from over 40 existing resources, that are relevant to the environmental effects of offshore wind energy development on the U.S. Pacific Coast (California, Oregon, and Washington). The SEER team then synthesized the over 500 individual research recommendations into roughly 50 broad overarching topics to provide an overview of what is included in the database. 

The database includes input from the SEER Pacific Research Recommendations Workshop held during May 3-5, 2022. The stakeholder workshop focused on preconstruction (baseline) research needs for potential floating offshore wind energy development on the U.S. Pacific Coast. The workshop covered three marine life breakout groups on subsequent days to discuss recommendations related to: 1) marine mammals and sea turtles, 2) fish and invertebrates, and 3) birds and bats. The final Workshop Report includes a summary of discussions and key takeaways from each breakout group.

The online tool below presents the synthesized research recommendations and provides links to relevant citations. Results can be refined by selecting from the drop-down menus or entering a search term. Synthesized research recommendations are ordered alphabetically. The order does not signify the importance or priority of each recommendation.

Download the complete database as a spreadsheet here.

Download the synthesized recommendations below as a spreadsheet here.

Research Recommendation Stressor/Topic Receptor Development Phase Citations
Develop noise monitoring technology

Improve understanding of the technical limitations of installing noise monitors via different methods (seabed tethering, buoys) to aid in cost reduction and improve understanding of how marine mammals interact with environment and OSW developments.

Technology/ Methods Development, Noise Marine mammals Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop or improve mitigation approaches

Examine existing and develop new mitigation techniques for reducing OSW-related impacts including from EMF, changes in water quality, noise, benthic disturbance, collisions, and displacement.

Technology/ Methods Development Bats, Benthos, Birds, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Fishes, Invertebrates, Marine mammals Operations & Maintenance Gulka and Williams 2020, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Roche et al. 2016, WOZEP project team 2016
Develop physiology/energetics tag

Develop a novel physiological tag to measure the potential energetic costs (e.g., energy consumption, metabolic rates) behavioral response, including displacement to OSW development to improve our understanding of the potential consequences of response.

Technology/ Methods Development, Physiology and Energetics Birds, Marine mammals Construction Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop predictive habitat models

Develop accurate and spatially explicit predictive habitat models of these species using environmental and movement data.

Technology/ Methods Development, Habitat Change Benthos, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2015
Develop resources and methods for passive acoustic studies

Develop a sound library of calls for all marine mammal species, as well as automatic detectors and long-range automated unmanned vehicles for passive acoustic studies.

Technology/ Methods Development Marine mammals Gulka and Williams 2020
Develop sound threshold criteria

Develop sound threshold exposure criteria for that are contextual and apply to species that hear through particle motion rather than sound pressure and all invertebrates to better understand the species-specific behavioral effects of noise.

Technology/ Methods Development Fishes, Invertebrates, Marine mammals Construction, Operations & Maintenance Gulka and Williams 2020, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop understanding of ecological drivers affecting population dynamics

Collect or use existing data to determine how ecological processes including weather events and climate change influence population dynamics.

Ecological Drivers, Population Dynamics, Baseline Birds, Fishes Operations & Maintenance Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland 2019
Differentiate causes of benthic changes

Assess changes to the benthos and organic enrichment around OSW turbines through targeted monitoring studies of the benthic community which differentiate OSW effects from other regional and global stressors

Habitat Change Benthos Operations & Maintenance Degraer et al. 2018, Degraer et al. 2021
Establish and improve long term monitoring programs

Develop methods and programs for long-term monitoring at OSW facilities including those to examine seasonal benthic change and whale distribution, abundance, and behavior.

Technology/ Methods Development Benthos, Marine mammals Pre-construction, Operations & Maintenance Hutchison et al. 2020, Abercrombie and Chytalo 2017
Establish baseline of physiological parameters

Establish baseline of physiological parameters including stress hormones

Baseline, Physiology and Energetics Marine mammals Pre-construction Southall et al. 2021
Establish criteria for habitat suitability

Develop set of criteria that describe what factors create suitable habitat

Baseline, Habitat Change Marine mammals WOZEP project team 2016
Evaluate applicability of findings for related species

Evaluate existing research and mitigation approaches to determine whether it is appropriate to extrapolate results from related species, or from other industries (e.g., oil and gas) to guide future research.

Technology/ Methods Development Bats, Birds, Fishes Construction, Operations & Maintenance Allison et al. 2019, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Evaluate changes in prey availability

Evaluate effects of OSW construction and operations on the abundance, diversity, and distribution of important prey species.

Diet and Food Web Dynamics, Abundance and Distribution Birds, Fishes, Invertebrates, Marine mammals Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) 2021, Cook et al. 2021, Southall et al. 2021
Evaluate changes in vessel traffic patterns related directly and indirectly to OSW development

Evaluate changes in vessel traffic patterns related to OSW activities, including vessel traffic directly associated with OSW as well as potential changes in other traffic patterns in response to OSW development

Vessel collision, Avoidance Marine mammals Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Southall et al. 2021
Evaluate health effects of stranding

Use historic stranding data as well as health assessments of wild animals to answer questions such as whether stranded or entangled animals are healthy or not

Baseline, Physiology and Energetics Sea turtles Pre-construction Bonacci-Sullivan 2018
Evaluate soundscapes throughout the OSW lifecycle

Evaluate ambient sound levels (soundscapes) in OSW development areas prior to development (baseline) and during all lifecycle phases, including calculating the total acoustic ‘budget’ (TAB) of OSW projects from initial site surveys to installation to routine surveys to operating noise.

Noise Marine mammals Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Southall et al. 2021
Evaluate spatiotemporal variation in species presence

Determine spatially and temporally explicit species presence in OSW development areas and historic and seasonal changes in presence, as well as absence.

Baseline, Abundance and Distribution Bats, Birds, Fishes, Marine mammals, Sea turtles Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Abercrombie and Chytalo 2017, Southall et al. 2021, State of Maine 2021
Evaluate the consequence of multiple stressors

Understand effects of multiple stressors on at-risk marine life populations, including physiological and demographic consequences, cumulative habitat disturbance/loss, population dynamics to better support adaptive management.

Cumulative Impacts Birds, Marine mammals Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Southall et al. 2021
Examine acoustic methods for measuring ecosystem change

Test the use of acoustic measurements to evaluate ecosystem changes around wind turbines.

Technology/ Methods Development, Habitat Change Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes Pre-construction, Operations & Maintenance Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) 2022
Examine activity levels at wind energy facilities

Understand patterns of bat movement in the offshore environment, to assess the degree of likely interactions with OSW facilities (e.g., attraction, collision risk), with a comparison of levels of bat activity at offshore and onshore wind farms and environmental variables influencing these...Read more

Understand patterns of bat movement in the offshore environment, to assess the degree of likely interactions with OSW facilities (e.g., attraction, collision risk), with a comparison of levels of bat activity at offshore and onshore wind farms and environmental variables influencing these patterns.

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Attraction, Turbine collision, Movement and Behavior Bats Pre-construction, Operations & Maintenance Hein et al. 2021, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2020, Solick and Newman 2021
Examine aerial survey design sufficiency for Environmental Impact Assessment

Improve understanding of aerial survey design sufficiency for Environmental Impact Assessment

Technology/ Methods Development Birds Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Examine behavioral response to ambient sound

Examine the degree to which marine mammals experience potential auditory effects of various types (such as masking, Lombard effect, or Temporary Threshold Shifts) with existing sound conditions.

Noise, Baseline, Movement and Behavior Marine mammals Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Southall et al. 2021
Examine behavioral responses to floating OSW

Explore the effects of floating wind farms on marine mammals, particularly seal movement and dive behavior around floating wind farm developments

Movement and Behavior Marine mammals Operations & Maintenance Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Examine behavioral responses to OSW-related sound

Measure received sound exposures and resulting behavioral changes to individual movements, acoustic behaviors, dive behaviors, avoidance, breeding and display behavior (including spawning aggregations), and predation success rates to activities (including turbine installation) during construction...Read more

Measure received sound exposures and resulting behavioral changes to individual movements, acoustic behaviors, dive behaviors, avoidance, breeding and display behavior (including spawning aggregations), and predation success rates to activities (including turbine installation) during construction and operations. Develop dose-response curves to understand locations/conditions in which behavioral changes would be expected to occur for different species of interest.

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Noise, Movement and Behavior Benthos, Fishes, Invertebrates, Marine mammals, Sea turtles Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance Gitschlag et al. 2021, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Kraus et al. 2019, Popper et al. 2021, WOZEP project team 2016
Examine changes in bioenergetics with OSW installation

Understanding the degree to which artificial reef effects change food webs, and in turn alter bioenergetics due to changes in foraging opportunities.

Physiology and Energetics Benthos, Fishes Operations & Maintenance Degraer et al. 2021
Examine comparability/integration across sampling strategies

Examine the comparability and integration of varied sampling strategies and/or the addition of relevant controls to determine a) the most cost effective, repeatable survey methods and sampling procedures for biological assessments, and b) data compilation and analytical approaches for existing...Read more

Examine the comparability and integration of varied sampling strategies and/or the addition of relevant controls to determine a) the most cost effective, repeatable survey methods and sampling procedures for biological assessments, and b) data compilation and analytical approaches for existing data types, including tracking data.

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Technology/ Methods Development Benthos, Birds, Fishes, Invertebrates Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance Cook et al. 2021, Hutchison et al. 2020, Abercrombie and Chytalo 2017
Examine cumulative impacts of anthropogenic sound

Investigate the impacts of cumulative anthropogenic sound on marine mammals.

Noise, Cumulative Impacts Marine mammals Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Gulka and Williams 2020
Examine distribution and abundance of larvae and juveniles

Examine the distribution and habitat use of larvae and juvenile animals

Baseline, Abundance and Distribution Fishes, Invertebrates Pre-construction New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Office of Science 2021
Examine effect of oceanographic change on lower trophic levels

Effects of changes in water stratification and turbidity on phytoplankton and zooplankton community structure, biomass and larval settlement success and recruitment

Oceanographic/Atmospheric Change, Population Dynamics Benthos, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Fishes, Invertebrates Construction, Operations & Maintenance Boon et al. 2018, Degraer et al. 2021, Piet et al. 2021, State of Maine 2021
Examine effect of OSW farms on body condition and growth

Examine fish and invertebrate condition (stomach content/growth rate/fecundity/energy content/etc.) for species of interest at OSW farms and relate to natural conditions to understand the effects of OSW development.

Physiology and Energetics Fishes, Invertebrates Operations & Maintenance Fowler et al. 2020, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries 2018
Examine effects of benthic habitat disturbance on habitat use and diet

Examine how disturbance of benthic habitat from OSW construction affects bird abundance/composition, diet, and health in the short term.

Habitat Change, Abundance and Distribution, Diet and Food Web Dynamics, Population Dynamics Birds Operations & Maintenance New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2020
Examine effects of changes in hydrodynamics on habitat and community structure

Understand changes in currents, wave energy, sediment flow, and stratification around OSW turbines and the degree to which these changes affect surrounding ecosystems, including migration and dynamic habitat of species.

Oceanographic/Atmospheric Change Benthos, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Fishes Operations & Maintenance Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, van Berkel et al. 2020
Examine effects of exclusion of bottom trawling

Examine how the exclusion of bottom trawling changes the development of benthos and in turn affects mobile fauna in the longer term (>5 years).

Habitat Change, Abundance and Distribution Benthos Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Fowler et al. 2020, WOZEP project team 2016
Examine effects of floating OSW cables/tethering as movement barriers

Assess effects of floating OSW, including tethering/mooring cables, on movement of aquatic species, including migration pattern and the degree to which these act as barriers to movement.

Attraction, Avoidance Fishes, Marine mammals Construction, Operations & Maintenance Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) 2021
Examine effects of OSW development on ocean stratification

Understand and quantify the possible effects from OSW structures on stratification and seasonally dependent effects on the Cold Pool, including structure-caused aquatic turbulence and wind stress alterations that affect both mixing and upwelling/downwelling ocean responses, as well as the...Read more

Understand and quantify the possible effects from OSW structures on stratification and seasonally dependent effects on the Cold Pool, including structure-caused aquatic turbulence and wind stress alterations that affect both mixing and upwelling/downwelling ocean responses, as well as the cascading effects on altered primary production, possible plankton blooms, and changes in predator foraging behavior.

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Oceanographic/Atmospheric Change Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes Pre-construction, Operations & Maintenance Carpenter et al. 2021, Degraer et al. 2021, Miles et al. 2020, Miles et al. 2021
Examine effects of OSW on aquatic migration patterns

Assess how fish and wildlife migratory movements change in response to offshore wind energy development (including in relation to stressors such as sound during different project phases, and while taking into account changes due to climate change or other ecological stressors).

Movement and Behavior Fishes, Marine mammals Construction, Operations & Maintenance Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) 2021
Examine effects of seabed scouring from floating cables/structures

Explore the effect of seabed scour from anchoring and cables and how long benthic communities will take to recover from this effect.

Habitat Change Benthos Operations & Maintenance Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Examine effects to phytoplankton composition and production

Study phytoplankton composition and production around OSW farms in conjunction with oceanographic change (e.g., mixing, destratification events, nutrient concentration, suspended particulate matter)

Habitat Change Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes Operations & Maintenance Boon et al. 2018
Examine factors influencing attraction to lighting

Understand the conditions that could attract birds to artificial lighting associated with OSW farms, including aspects such as lighting color, flashing of lights, the amount of time lights are on (e.g., once they are triggered by ADLS), weather conditions, and stage in their annual cycle.

Attraction, Lighting Birds Construction, Operations & Maintenance Cook et al. 2021, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2020
Examine factors influencing collision risk

Assess effects of parameters on collision risk such as age, sex, behavior, season, weather conditions, lighting, turbine height and/or spacing, windfarm location/shape relative to colonies, predominant ecological function of area.

Turbine collision, Population Dynamics, Ecological Drivers, Movement and Behavior Bats, Birds Pre-construction, Operations & Maintenance Cook et al. 2021, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2020, WOZEP project team 2016
Examine factors influencing displacement/attraction/avoidance

Examine the factors potentially influencing avoidance/displacement/attraction response, including weather, visibility, proximity to breeding colony, presence/degree of fishing activity, season, age, breeding status, site characteristics (e.g., distance to shore, floating/fixed foundation) as well...Read more

Examine the factors potentially influencing avoidance/displacement/attraction response, including weather, visibility, proximity to breeding colony, presence/degree of fishing activity, season, age, breeding status, site characteristics (e.g., distance to shore, floating/fixed foundation) as well as factors external to OSW development (e.g., climate change, other stressors).

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Avoidance, Displacement, Ecological Drivers Bats, Benthos, Birds, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Fishes, Invertebrates, Marine mammals, Sea turtles Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, May et al. 2017, Skov et al. 2018, Southall et al. 2021, State of Maine 2021
Examine how OSW impacts the full life cycle of species

Examine how OSW development-related stressors impact the full life history cycle of fishes.

Habitat Change, Population Dynamics Fishes Construction, Operations & Maintenance Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) 2021
Examine how seabed change affects species abundance and ecosystem services

Investigate long-term changes in habitats due to OSW-related disturbance, including their rates of recovery and nature of change (such as changes in seabed use, species abundance, and ecosystem services).

Habitat Change, Abundance and Distribution Benthos, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Fishes, Invertebrates Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Piet et al. 2021, Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) 2021
Examine influence of wind farm characteristics on level of effect

Assess the effect of turbine characteristics (e.g., size, spacing) and micro-siting (e.g., placement, spatial configuration) on the degree of effects

Technology/ Methods Development Bats, Benthos, Birds, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Fishes, Invertebrates, Marine mammals, Sea turtles Construction, Operations & Maintenance New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2015, Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) 2021
Examine integration across baseline study methodologies

Develop integrated methods to improve understanding of baseline abundance and density of birds, including integrating aerial and boat-based survey data, and methods to examine densities during both day and night.

Technology/ Methods Development, Baseline Birds Pre-construction, Operations & Maintenance Brodie et al. 2021, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Examine long-term and cumulative seabed effects

Assess OSW-related effects to different types of sandbank and determine if there is a point beyond which features cannot recover from disturbance to improve understanding of long-term and cumulative effects.

Habitat Change, Cumulative Impacts Benthos Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Examine meso-scale avoidance in relation to wake effects

Relate flight patterns within operational wind farms to changing airflow patterns to better understand meso-avoidance.

Avoidance Birds Operations & Maintenance Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Examine meta-population dynamics and connectivity

Improve understanding of baseline meta-population dynamics, including connectivity, immigration/emigration, and how this relates to life history, survival, and reproduction.

Baseline, Population Dynamics Birds, Marine mammals Pre-construction Cook et al. 2021, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Examine net change of hard substrate habitat from OSW infrastructure

Assess net change (gain/loss) in hard substrate habitat resulting from OSW farms and effects on marine life habitat use, including providing a quantitative estimation of change of the surface area of (natural and artificial) hard substrata in full lease areas.

Habitat Change Benthos Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance Degraer et al. 2021, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Examine population consequences of entanglement

Investigating the potential for population level effects of entanglement of whales in mooring lines for floating wind devices. This would use strandings data, monitoring of entanglements, and monitoring. This study would help to better inform population models.

Entanglement, Population Dynamics Marine mammals Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021