The 2020 State of the Science Workshop, hosted by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), was held virtually from November 16-20, 2020. This workshop brought together over 430 stakeholders engaged with environmental and wildlife research relevant to offshore wind energy development. The aim of the workshop was to assess the state of the knowledge regarding offshore wind development’s potential cumulative impacts on wildlife populations and ecosystems. For this effort, cumulative impacts were defined as interacting or compounding effects across spatiotemporal scales, caused by anthropogenic activities relating to the development and operation of multiple offshore wind energy facilities, that collectively affect wildlife populations or ecosystems (see call-out box for definitions of "effects" and "impacts"). Attendees included a wide range of stakeholders from offshore industry, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and academia. More information can be found at http://nyetwg.com/2020-workshop.
Following the plenary sessions in November, workshop attendees formed seven taxon-specific workgroups focusing on benthos, fishes and mobile invertebrates, birds, bats, marine mammals, sea turtles, and environmental change. Workgroups, under the guidance of lead technical experts, met virtually in late 2020 and early 2021 to identify scientific research, monitoring, and coordination needs to improve our understanding of cumulative impacts from offshore wind energy development. The goal for each group was to identify a list of studies that could be implemented in the next five years to position the stakeholder community to better understand potential cumulative biological impacts as the offshore wind industry develops in the eastern U.S.
The intended audience for this report encompasses a range of stakeholders including researchers, state and federal agencies, offshore wind energy developers, regional science entities, and other potential funding entities that could potentially target these priorities for future funding. The priorities identified below should not be interpreted as research that must occur prior to any development activity. Rather, these priorities are intended to further inform environmentally-responsible development and minimize cumulative impacts over the long term, and many of these research needs are specifically directed at understanding and measuring effects as the industry progresses.
The benthos workgroup was led by Steven Degraer (Senior Scientist, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences) and Zoe Hutchison (Research Fellow, University of St. Andrews, and Honorary Fellow of the Scottish Association for Marine Science), with technical and logistical support from Carl LoBue (New York Ocean Programs Director, The Nature Conservancy), Kate Williams, Edward Jenkins, and Julia Gulka (Biodiversity Research Institute) and Ashley Arayas and others (Cadmus Group). The workgroup consisted of 36 participants (Appendix A), who met virtually four times in the winter and spring of 2020-2021 to discuss research priorities to improve our understanding of cumulative impacts to benthos from OSW development on the east coast of the U.S. Workgroup members represented a wide range of perspectives, from OSW developers, the fishing industry, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and academia, and provided key input based on their respective specialties. All workgroup documents were shared with workgroup members via a document collaboration platform (e.g., Google Drive, Microsoft Teams), and workgroup members had multiple opportunities over the course of several months to provide written input on earlier working drafts of this report. The report indicates a general consensus among workgroup members, unless otherwise noted. Despite the substantial input and influence of workgroup members on the workgroup reports, final report contents were determined by the technical leads. More information about the workgroups can be found at www.nyetwg.com/2020-workgroups.