The OES-Environmental 2020 State of the Science Report: Environmental Effects of Marine Renewable Energy Development Around the World builds on and serves as an update and a complement to the 2013 Final Report for Phase 1 of OES-Environmental and the 2016 State of the Science Report. Its content reflects the most current and pertinent published information about interactions of marine renewable energy (MRE) devices and associated infrastructure with the animals and habitats that make up the marine environment. It has been developed and reviewed by over 60 international experts and scientists from around the world as part of an ongoing effort supported by the OES collaboration that operates within the International Technology Cooperation Framework of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The 2020 State of the Science Report consists of 14 chapters which can be downloaded as a whole or individually. Download Chapter 6: Changes in Benthic and Pelagic Habitats Caused by Marine Renewable Energy Devices here.
The deployment of MRE devices requires the installation of gravity foundations, pilings, or anchors that may alter benthic habitats, as well as mooring lines, transmission cables, and mechanical moving parts in the water column that may affect pelagic habitats. The presence of these structures on the seafloor or within the water column has the potential to alter animal presence or behavior, and may lead to artificial reef and reserve effects. Installation of power export cables to carry power to the shore can disturb and remove habitat over a long thin area. Scouring of sediments around anchors and foundations may also alter benthic habitats. Changes in benthic and pelagic habitats observed in other marine applications, such as offshore wind, oil and gas, navigation buoys, and power and communication cables, provide helpful analogs for evaluating MRE effects.
New habitats may be created for biofouling organisms, where MRE devices, foundations, and cables provide artificial surfaces to be colonized, and species may be attracted to underwater portions of MRE systems, creating de facto artificial reefs and marine protected areas. This attraction may boost fish populations because of a spillover effect that increases fishing opportunities in nearby areas. Overall, changes in habitat caused by MRE devices and arrays are likely to pose a low risk to animals and habitats if projects are sited to avoid rare or fragile habitats.
The Short Science Summary for the chapter is available here.