What's Next and Why? A Look Ahead at Strategic Ecological Research Direction


Title: What's Next and Why? A Look Ahead at Strategic Ecological Research Direction
Authors: Scott, B.
Publication Date:
May 01, 2014
Conference Name: Environmental Impact of Marine Renewables 2014
Conference Location: Stornoway, Scotland, UK

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Scott, B. (2014). What's Next and Why? A Look Ahead at Strategic Ecological Research Direction [Presentation]. Presented at the Environmental Impact of Marine Renewables 2014, Stornoway, Scotland, UK.

In the marine environment we are about to move from an era of testing and single devices or relatively small areas of wind farms to very large arrays of offshore energy development for wind, wave and tidal energy extraction. As we are moving to the use of substantial amounts of our most productive oceanic areas to be harnessed for the ‘greater good’ of supplying the urgent need for lowcarbon energy we must understand, at a fundamental level, the ecological impact of this activity at the ecosystem level. In our world, with an increasing population, we need to be smarter in encouraging anthropological activity at sea than we were on land over the last few centuries – where globally our biggest cites are also generally over running on top of very fertile soils, situated in large deltas of the major maritime trading ports of the past. So far the understanding of possible environmental interactions has been somewhat limited by the lack of even the most basic of baseline data. Therefore some years and a lot of money has now been spent just in starting to determine the answers to question such as: what species are present, how many and where are they? A resounding answer to all questions has been – YES, there are a lot of species which use these high energy areas for foraging and migration routes between feeding grounds and sites used for reproduction. There are also some specialist species which may use these high energy sites almost exclusively for foraging. Therefore we need to do much more than just document what organisms are present and if their distributions are changing. We need to understand what happens across trophic levels at these high energy sites and what the effects of extracting a proportion of wind, wave and tidal energy, or just the deployment of man-made structures, will have on the behaviour of foraging and migrating animals. An understanding of cumulative effects, in their widest sense, ranging from the production levels of primary produces to the reproductive output of marine mammals, needs to be progressed such that a more accurate prediction of the scale and intensity of effects in ‘downstream’ regions can be considered. We do have a good enough understanding at both small and large scale spatial and temporal levels to be able to make predictions of at least what will change physically within our marine environment when many hundreds to thousands of marine renewable devices are operating. We need to match that knowledge with a rapid increase in our understanding of how a range of animals from the benthos, through to fish, seabirds and mammals will react to those changes in order to make well informed, lower risk and ecologically sustainable choices in the approved locations, density and detailed array design of renewable developments.


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