Several Western European countries are planning for a massive offshore renewable energy (i.e. wind and wave energy) development (ORED) along the European Atlantic coast and in the Baltic Sea. Acknowledging the scale of ORED, there is an increasing interest in the opportunities offered by the fishery closures and the addition of artificial hard substrata. This is in tandem with uncertainties on positive and negative effects on benthic assemblages and specific species of this large-scale deployment of artificial reefs.
This thesis focuses on the artificial reef effects of ORED, dealing with benthic assemblages on and in the vicinity of wind- and wave power foundations. Field surveys within offshore wind- and wave farms as well as targeted field experiments were conducted. Results suggest that wind- and wave power foundations can positively affect local abundances and diversity of several species of fish and decapods. Reef profile up to 1 m above the seabed may enhance benthic fish numbers. Structural complexity in the form of single-entrance holes positively affected numbers of edible crab (Cancer pagurus), but no effect on fish was shown. Enhanced structural complexity may, moreover, adversely affect abundances of some species through an induced predation pressure. Micro-habitat use by fish and lobsters (Homarus gammarus) encountered was described, and preferences of the edible crab were shown.
Filtrating organisms (i.e. blue mussels Mytilus spp. and barnacles Balanus spp.) seem to be particularly favoured by the conditions on offshore energy installations. The material and orientation of the substrate influenced colonisation patterns of epibiota. Moreover, wind turbines may alter the habitat composition on adjacent seabeds.
ORED could induce local ecological changes and put areas and species of conservation interest at risk. If well planned and coordinated, on the other hand, ORED could even be beneficial to the subsurface marine environment in several aspects.