The development of offshore wind farms (OWFs) in the North Sea has increased considerably to create alternatives for fossil fuel energy. Activities related to the construction of OWFs, in particular gravity-based foundations (GBFs), are mainly associated to dredging, causing direct effects to the macrofauna in the seabed. The sediment characteristics and macrofauna were studied before and after construction (2005–2010) of six GBFs in an OWF in the Belgian part of the North Sea. We distinguished natural from anthropogenic-related fluctuations in macrofaunal communities by analysing a long-term dataset (1980–2012). The analysed sandbanks are characterised by sandy substrates and a community with low species abundance (180–812 ind m−2) and diversity (6–15 species per 0.1 m2). Strong temporal variations were observed possibly related to variable weather conditions in the area. Significant differences in community composition were observed due to the installation of six GBFs in the construction year of the OWF followed by a rapid recovery a year later and confirmed by the benthic ecosystem quality index BEQI. Even though the construction of GBFs creates a physical disturbance to the seabed, the macrobenthic community of these sediments have illustrated a fast recovery potential.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Anderson, M. J., R. N. Gorley & K. R. Clarke, 2008. PERMANOVA+ for PRIMER: Guide to Software and Statistical Methods. PRIMER-E, Plymouth: 214.
Bergström, L., L. Kautsky, T. Malm, H. Ohlsson, M. Wahlberg, R. Rosenberg & N. A. Capetillo, 2012. The Effects of Wind Power on Marine Life: A Synthesis. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Stockholm: 91.
Bonne, W., 2010. Macrobenthos characteristics and distribution, following intensive sand extraction from a subtidal sandbank. Journal of Coastal Research 51: 141–150.
Borja, A., E. Barbone, A. Basset, G. Borgersen, M. Brkljacic, M. Elliott, J. Mikel Garmendia, J. C. Marques, K. Mazik, I. Muxika, J. Magalhaes Neto, K. Norling, J. German Rodriguez, I. Rosati, B. Rygg, H. Teixeira & A. Trayanova, 2011. Response of single benthic metrics and multi-metric methods to anthropogenic pressure gradients, in five distinct European coastal and transitional ecosystems. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62(3): 499–513.
Boyd, S. E., D. S. Limpenny, H. L. Rees, K. M. Cooper & S. Campbell, 2003. Preliminary observations of the effects of dredging intensity on the re-colonisation of dredged sediments off the southeast coast of England (Area 222). Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 57(1–2): 209–223.
Boyd, S. E., D. S. Limpenny, H. L. Rees & K. M. Cooper, 2005. The effects of marine sand and gravel extraction on the macrobenthos at a commercial dredging site (results 6 years post-dredging). ICES Journal of Marine Science 62(2): 145–162.
Brey, T., 2001. Population dynamics in benthic invertebrates. In A Virtual Handbook. Version 01.2 [http://www.thomas-brey.de/science/virtualhandbook].
Clarke, K. & R. Gorley, 2006. PRIMER V6: User Manual/Tutorial. PRIMER-E, Plymouth: 190.
Coates, D. A., Y. Deschutter, M. Vincx & J. Vanaverbeke, 2014. Enrichment and shifts in macrobenthic assemblages in an offshore wind farm area in the Belgian part of the North Sea. Marine Environmental Research 95: 1–12.
Corbetta, G., I. Pineda & J. Moccia, 2014. The European offshore wind industry – key trends and statistics 2013. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA): 22.
de Groot, S. J., 1984. The impact of bottom trawling on Benthic fauna of the North Sea. Ocean Management 9: 177–190.
De Maersschalck, V., K. Hostens, K. Cooreman, M. Vincx & S. Degraer, 2005. Monitoring van de effecten van het Thornton windmolenpark op de benthische macro-invertebraten en de visfauna van zachte substraten - referentietoestand. Bepaling van de referentiegebieden. De Berheerseenheid van het Mathematische Model van de Noordzee: 11.
De Maersschalck, V., K. Hostens, J. Wittoeck, K. Cooreman, M. Vincx & S. Degraer, 2006. Monitoring van de effecten van het Thornton windmolenpark op de benthische macro-invertebraten en de visfauna van het zachte substraat: 136.
Degraer, S., E. Verfaillie, W. Willems, E. Adriaens, M. Vincx & V. Van Lancker, 2008. Habitat suitability modelling as a mapping tool for macrobenthic communities: An example from the Belgian part of the North Sea. Continental Shelf Research 28(3): 369–379.
Desprez, M., 2000. Physical and biological impact of marine aggregate extraction along the French coast of the Eastern English Channel: short- and long-term post-dredging restoration. ICES Journal of Marine Science 57(5): 1428–1438.
Desroy, N. & C. Retiere, 2001. Long-term changes in muddy fine sand community of the Rance Basin: role of recruitment. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 81(4): 553–564.
Dewicke, A., A. Cattrijsse, J. Mees & M. Vincx, 2003. Spatial patterns of the hyperbenthos of subtidal sandbanks in the southern North Sea. Journal of Sea Research 49(1): 27–45.
Eastwood, P. D., C. M. Mills, J. N. Aldridge, C. A. Houghton & S. I. Rogers, 2007. Human activities in UK offshore waters: an assessment of direct, physical pressure on the seabed. ICES Journal of Marine Science 64(3): 453–463.
Foden, J., S. I. Rogers & A. P. Jones, 2009. Recovery rates of UK seabed habitats after cessation of aggregate extraction. Marine Ecology Progress Series 390: 15–26.
Frid, C. L. J., 2011. Temporal variability in the benthos: does the sea floor function differently over time? Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 400(1–2): 99–107.
Frojan, C., S. E. Boyd, K. M. Cooper, J. D. Eggleton & S. Ware, 2008. Long-term benthic responses to sustained disturbance by aggregate extraction in an area off the east coast of the United Kingdom. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 79(2): 204–212.
Fromentin, J. M. & F. Ibanez, 1994. Year-to-year changes in meteorological features of the French coast area during the last half-century – examples of 2 biological responses. Oceanologica Acta 17(3): 285–296.
Hiscock, K., H. Tyler-Walters & H. Jones, 2002. High level environment screening study for offshore wind farm developments—marine habitats and species project. Report from the Marine Biological Association to the Department of Trade and Industry New & Renewable Energy Programme (AEA Technology, Environment Contract: W/35/00632/00/00): 156.
Josefson, A. B., M. Blomqvist, J. L. S. Hansen, R. Rosenberg & B. Rygg, 2009. Assessment of marine benthic quality change in gradients of disturbance: comparison of different Scandinavian multi-metric indices. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58(9): 1263–1277.
Kenny, A. J. & H. L. Rees, 1996. The effects of marine gravel extraction on the macrobenthos: results 2 years post-dredging. Marine Pollution Bulletin 32(8–9): 615–622.
Kröncke, I., 2011. Changes in Dogger Bank macrofauna communities in the 20th century caused by fishing and climate. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 94(3): 234–245.
Kröncke, I., J. W. Dippner, H. Heyen & B. Zeiss, 1998. Long-term changes in macrofaunal communities off Norderney (East Frisia, Germany) in relation to climate variability. Marine Ecology-Progress Series 167: 25–36.
Kröncke, I., H. Reiss & J. W. Dippner, 2013. Effects of cold winters and regime shifts on macrofauna communities in shallow coastal regions. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 119: 79–90.
Leonhard, S. B. & J. Pedersen, 2005. Benthic communities at Horns Rev before, during and after construction of Horns Rev Offshore Wind Farm. Final Report. Annual Report 2005: 154.
Lindeboom, H. J., H. J. Kouwenhoven, M. J. N. Bergman, S. Bouma, S. Brasseur, R. Daan, R. C. Fijn, D. de Haan, S. Dirksen, R. van Hal, R. H. R. Lambers, R. Ter Hofstede, K. L. Krijgsveld, M. Leopold & M. Scheidat, 2011. Short-term ecological effects of an offshore wind farm in the Dutch coastal zone; a compilation. Environmental Research Letters 6(3): 1–13.
Malvern, I., 1999. Operators Guide MAN0247 issue 2.0.
Merken, V., 2008. Definiëring van een referentiegebied op de Thorntonbank, Vol. COPCO/CP50.5.421/R2008-02. FODeconomie.
Neumann, H., H. Reiss, S. Rakers, S. Ehrich & I. Kroencke, 2009. Temporal variability in southern North Sea epifauna communities after the cold winter of 1995/1996. ICES Journal of Marine Science 66(10): 2233–2243.
Newell, R. C., L. J. Seiderer & D. R. Hitchcock, 1998. The impact of dredging works in coastal waters: a review of the sensitivity to disturbance and subsequent recovery of biological resources on the seabed. Oceanography and Marine Biology 36: 127–178.
Osborn, T. J., 2011. Winter 2009/2010 temperatures and a record-breaking North Atlantic Oscillation index. Weather 66(1): 19–21.
Pearson, T. H. & R. Rosenberg, 1978. Macrobenthic succession in relation to organic enrichment and pollution of the marine environment. Oceanography and Marine Biology 16: 229–311.
Peire, K., H. Nonneman & E. Bosschem, 2009. Gravity Base Foundations for the Thorntonbank Offshore Wind farm. Terre et Aqua 115: 19–29.
Rabaut, M., U. Braeckman, F. Hendrickx, M. Vincx & S. Degraer, 2008. Experimental beam-trawling in Lanice conchilega reefs: impact on the associated fauna. Fisheries Research 90(1–3): 209–216.
Reiss, H., K. Meybohm & I. Kroncke, 2006. Cold winter effects on benthic macrofauna communities in near- and offshore regions of the North Sea. Helgoland Marine Research 60(3): 224–238.
van Dalfsen, J. A., K. Essink, H. T. Madsen, J. Birklund, J. Romero & M. Manzanera, 2000. Differential response of macrozoobenthos to marine sand extraction in the North Sea and the Western Mediterranean. ICES Journal of Marine Science 57(5): 1439–1445.
Van Hoey, G., S. Degraer & M. Vincx, 2004. Macrobenthic community structure of soft-bottom sediments at the Belgian Continental Shelf. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf science 59: 599–613.
Van Hoey, G., J. Drent, T. Ysebaert & P. Herman, 2007a. The Benthic Ecosystem Quality Index (BEQI), intercalibration and assessment of Dutch coastal and transitional waters for the Water Framework Directive. NIOO Rapport 2007–2002: 244.
Van Hoey, G., M. Vincx & S. Degraer, 2007b. Temporal variability in the Abra alba community determined by global and local events. Journal of Sea Research 58(2): 144–155.
Van Hoey, G., A. Borja, S. Birchenough, L. Buhl-Mortensen, S. Degraer, D. Fleischer, F. Kerckhof, P. Magni, I. Muxika, H. Reiss, A. Schroder & M. L. Zettler, 2010. The use of benthic indicators in Europe: from the Water Framework Directive to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Marine Pollution Bulletin 60(12): 2187–2196.
Van Hoey, G., D. C. Permuy, S. Vandendriessche, M. Vincx & K. Hostens, 2013. An ecological quality status assessment procedure for soft-sediment benthic habitats: weighing alternative approaches. Ecological Indicators 25: 266–278.
Vanaverbeke, J., V. Bellec, W. Bonne, T. Deprez, K. Hostens, I. Moulaert, V. Van Lancker & M. Vincx, 2007. SPSD II. Study of Post-extraction Ecological Effects in the Kwintebank Sand Dredging Area (SPEEK). Belgian Science Policy, Brussel: 91.
Vanosmael, C. & C. Heip, 1984. Comparative investigation of the macrofauna of the Kwinte Bank and the Goote. Report concerning the effects of sand and gravel exploitation on the benthic fauna OOA Report Ecological and ecotoxicological studies of benthos of the Southern Bight of the North Sea. Marine Biology Section, Zoology Institute, State University of Gent, Gent: 56–86.
Weijerman, M., H. Lindeboom & A. F. Zuur, 2005. Regime shifts in marine ecosystems of the North Sea and Wadden Sea. Marine Ecology-Progress Series 298: 21–39.
Wieking, G. & I. Kroncke, 2001. Decadal changes in macrofauna communities on the Dogger Bank caused by large-scale climate variability. In Kroncke, I., M. Turkay & J. Sundermann (eds) Burning Issues of North Sea Ecology. Senckenbergiana Maritima-Series, Vol. 31. Springer, Berlin: 125–141.
This paper contributes to the Belgian offshore wind farm monitoring programme, with the financial support of C-Power N.V., Belwind N.V. and Northwind N.V. Authors would like to thank the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Operational Directorate Natural Environment, Marine Ecology and Management Section for their technical support and the crew of the RV Belgica for their assistance on-board. Additional funding was provided by the Special Research Fund of Ghent University (BOF-GOA 01GA1911 W). This paper also contributes to the FWO project nr. G.0033.11. We would like to thank numerous colleagues and students for their assistance in the field and the laboratory.
Guest editors: Steven Degraer, Jennifer Dannheim, Andrew B. Gill, Han Lindeboom & Dan Wilhelmsson / Environmental impacts of offshore wind farms
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Coates, D.A., van Hoey, G., Colson, L. et al. Rapid macrobenthic recovery after dredging activities in an offshore wind farm in the Belgian part of the North Sea. Hydrobiologia 756, 3–18 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-014-2103-2