Several human activities at the North Sea are expected to change in the coming thirty years, with a fast upscaling of offshore wind energy. The objectives of this study are to evaluate for the North Sea marine ecosystem the knowledge base to assess the cumulative impacts of all the main human activities under various planning scenarios. The aim is also to assess specific scenarios (until 2030 and 2050) supposed to accommodate this offshore wind upscaling process. To that end a Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) is applied and the outcomes are interpreted in relation to the achievement of (EU) biodiversity targets, and the concept of carrying capacity for the North Sea ecosystem. In addition we discuss the possibilities to apply CIA in the context of an ecosystem-based approach to marine spatial planning aimed at achieving existing environmental marine policy goals.
This report provides an overview of the state-of-the-art knowledge to assess current and future cumulative impacts of all the main human activities on the North Sea ecosystem. It consists of the description of a robust risk-based approach (explained in the methods section), where its application in the North Sea context identified many knowledge gaps in terms of quantitative data (e.g. spatial distributions) or understanding of various relationships (e.g. pressure on ecosystem component). As such, much of the knowledge is still mostly expert judgement-based but now with the advantage of having a formalised methodology that can guide further scientific research to, in time, provide the information required and (further) improve the quality of such Cumulative Impact Assessments (CIAs).