Marine energy devices are installed in highly dynamic environments and have the potential to affect benthic and pelagic habitats around them. Regulatory bodies often require baseline characterization and/or post-installation monitoring to determine whether changes in these habitats are being observed. However, a great diversity of technologies is available for surveying and sampling marine habitats. Selecting the most suitable instrument to identify and measure changes in habitats at marine energy sites can become a daunting task.
We conducted a thorough review of journal articles, survey reports, and grey literature to extract information about the technologies used, the data collection and processing methods, and the performance and effectiveness of these instruments. We examined documents related to marine energy development, offshore wind farms, oil and gas offshore sites, and other marine industries around the world over the last 20 years, as well as national and international guidelines for surveying habitats around offshore activities. A total of 120 different technologies were identified across six main habitat categories: seafloor, sediment, infauna, epifauna, pelagic, and biofouling. The technologies were organized into 12 broad technology classes: acoustic, corer, dredge, grab, hook and line, net and trawl, plate, remote sensing, scrape samples, trap, visual, and others. Visual was the most common and the most diverse technology class, with applications across all six habitat categories.
Sampling designs varied considerably among the reviewed studies but transect was the predominant design for surveying seafloor, epifauna, and pelagic habitats. The most common data analyses were univariate and multivariate statistical analyses aimed at calculating and comparing biodiversity indices, characterizing faunal assemblages or sediment classes, or modeling the distribution of animals related to abiotic parameters. Technologies and sampling methods adaptable and designed to work efficiently in energetic environments have greater success at marine energy sites. In addition, sampling designs and statistical analyses should be carefully thought through to identify differences in faunal assemblages and spatiotemporal changes in habitats.