The aim of the Working Group on Marine Benthal and Renewable Energy Developments (WGMBRED) is to increase scientific exchange and efficiency of benthal renewable energy related research.
In 2019–2021, the group discussed guidelines for data collection and methodologies and developed an integrated example dataset on benthos data of marine renewable energy devices. This database CRITTERBASE, currently contains data from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark on wind farms, gas platforms and a natural reef, based on 1969 samples collected during 92 expeditions with 710 benthic taxa. This dataset will be made publicly available to serve future research on the effects of the installation and exploration of renewable energy devices in the marine environment.
WGMBRED further investigated possible positive effects of renewable energy installations, developed the scientific basis for assessing the effect of different decommissioning scenarios and reviewed the available knowledge on the relationship between renewable energy installations and the provisioning of ecosystem services. The identified positive effects of the installation of offshore energy devices is linked with the removal of pressures in light of safety issues, rather than a direct protection of the marine environment, and therefore such installations can be considered as Other Effective area-based Conservation Measure (OECM). The group identified the most plausible decommissioning scenarios and tested whether the earlier published cause-effect relationships underlying the effect of the presence of renewable energy installations can be used – after slight modification – for assessing the (partial) removal of the devices.
Along the same lines, a structural review of the biodiversity – ecosystem functioning – ecosystem service links in the context of an operational phase of an offshore wind farm resulted in a conceptual framework and available knowledge base allowing formal semi-quantitative analyses. WGMBRED will continue along these lines and use the concepts and collective knowledge base for more formal assessments of the ecological consequences of installing, operating and decommissioning renewable energy structures from the marine environment. In addition, WGMBRED will review emerging non-invasive monitoring techniques and methodology to assess the effect of energy emissions on the environment.