A wave energy park has been established on the Swedish west coast outside Lysekil and pioneer work about its interactions with the marine environment has been conducted. So far, little is known about the effects of offshore energy installations on the marine environment, and this thesis assists in minimizing environmental risks as well as in enhancing potential positive effects on the marine environment. The Lysekil research site is situated about two kilometres offshore and has been under development since 2005. During this time 26 “environmental devices”, without generators, consisting of a steel buoy attached via a wire to a foundation on 25 m depth have been placed out for ecological studies on macrofauna in surrounding sediments and on colonization of the foundations and the buoys. Sediment samples to examine macrofauna in the seabed have been taken during five seasons. Biomass, abundance and diversity of infauna in the test site were generally low, but higher than in a nearby control site. The species composition was typical for the area and depth.
In addition to sediment analysis, the effect of wave power concrete foundations on the marine environment has been investigated by scuba diving. The surface orientation and its effect on colonization by sessile organisms was examined on the first five foundations, placed out in 2005, and observations of habitat use by fish and crustaceans were made. The results show a succession of colonization over time (three years of investigation) with a higher cover by sessile organisms on vertical surfaces. Mobile fauna abundance on and around the foundations was generally low.
Three months after the deployment of the 21 new foundations in 2007, assemblages of mobile organisms were examined visually. Also here, mobile species exhibit a low density, but still higher than on surrounding soft bottoms. The edible crab used artificial holes in the foundations frequently. The foundations were placed in two different clusters, north and south, and the degree to which early recruits covered the foundations and the succession of epibenthic communities were documented during two years. Sessile organisms colonized the northern foundations more rapidly, producing a higher diversity which suggests that the placement of wave energy devices affects colonization patterns.
Biofouling on buoys was examined and blue mussels, Mytilus edulis, dominated with a cover about 90%. Wave exposed buoys were particularly favoured by M. edulis which there had a higher biomass and larger shells compared to those on sheltered buoys. Biofouling on wave power buoys, independent whether these had a cylindrical or toroidal shape, was insufficient to markedly affect their energy production.
Finally, the thesis incorporates a review describing wave power projects in general pointing out the need of future research on for instance no-take zones, marine bioacoustics and electromagnetic fields. The main conclusions are that large-scale renewable wave energy conversion will cause ecological impact primarily by adding new hard substrate to an area but not by harming organisms or decreasing biodiversity within wave power parks.