Global warming and its link to the burning of fossil fuels has prompted many governments around the world to set legally binding greenhouse gas reduction targets which are to be partially realised through a stronger reliance on renewable (e.g. wind) and other lower carbon (i.e. natural gas and nuclear) energy commodities. The marine environment will play a key role in hosting or supporting these new energy strategies. However, it is unclear how the construction, operation and eventual decommissioning of these energy systems, and their related infrastructure, will impact the marine environment, the ecosystem services (i.e. cultural, regulating, provisioning and supporting) and in turn the benefits it provides for human well-being. This uncertainty stems from a lack of research that has synthesised into a common currency the various effects of each energy sector on marine ecosystems and the benefits humans derive from it. To address this gap, the present study reviews existing ecosystem impact studies for offshore components of nuclear, offshore wind, offshore gas and offshore oil sectors and translates them into the common language of ecosystem service impacts that can be used to evaluate current policies. The results suggest that differences exist in the way in which energy systems impact ecosystem services, with the nuclear sector having a predominantly negative impact on cultural ecosystem services; oil and gas a predominately negative impact on cultural, provisioning, regulating and supporting ecosystem services; while wind has a mix of impacts on cultural, provisioning and supporting services and an absence of studies for regulating services. This study suggests that information is still missing with regard to the full impact of these energy sectors on specific types of benefits that humans derive from the marine environment and proposes possible areas of targeted research.
Energy Systems and their Impacts on Marine Ecosystem Services
Title: Energy Systems and their Impacts on Marine Ecosystem Services
December 01, 2015
Journal: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Papathanasopoulou, E.; Beaumont, N.; Hooper, T.; Nunes, J.; Queirós, A. (2015). Energy Systems and their Impacts on Marine Ecosystem Services. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 52, 917-926.