Ecological risk as a tool for evaluating the effects of offshore wind farm construction in the North Sea


Offshore wind power generation represents a chance to supply energy in a more sustainable way; however, the ecological risks associated with the construction and operation of offshore wind farms are still largely unknown. This paper uses the concept of ecological risk for analysing ecological changes during construction of offshore wind farms. “Ecological risk” is defined as the potentially reduced ability of providing ecosystem services. The ERSEM ecosystem model allows assessing ecological risk based on a number of selected variables (integrity indicators) and under the assumption that increased suspended matter concentration during construction of wind farms affects ecosystem functioning. We conclude that ecological risk is adequate to describe the effects of wind farm constructions, although the computation procedure still needs to be refined and the choice of indicators further optimised. In this context, the choice of indicators available in modelling as well as in monitoring time-series may offer the way forward.

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This work has been carried out in the framework of the BMBF-funded project Zukunft Küste-Coastal Futures (Project No. 03F0404A), a LOICZ affiliated project. Many thanks to F. Colijn for useful suggestions and constructive comments on an earlier version of this paper.

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Correspondence to Corinna Nunneri.

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Nunneri, C., Lenhart, H.J., Burkhard, B. et al. Ecological risk as a tool for evaluating the effects of offshore wind farm construction in the North Sea. Reg Environ Change 8, 31–43 (2008).

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  • Ecosystem services
  • Ecological integrity
  • Integrity indicators