The large-scale impact of offshore wind farm structures on pelagic primary productivity in the southern North Sea

Abstract

The increasing demand for renewable energy is projected to result in a 40-fold increase in offshore wind electricity in the European Union by 2030. Despite a great number of local impact studies for selected marine populations, the regional ecosystem impacts of offshore wind farm (OWF) structures are not yet well assessed nor understood. Our study investigates whether the accumulation of epifauna, dominated by the filter feeder Mytilus edulis (blue mussel), on turbine structures affects pelagic primary productivity and ecosystem functioning in the southern North Sea. We estimate the anthropogenically increased potential distribution based on the current projections of turbine locations and reported patterns of M. edulis settlement. This distribution is integrated through the Modular Coupling System for Shelves and Coasts to state-of-the-art hydrodynamic and ecosystem models. Our simulations reveal non-negligible potential changes in regional annual primary productivity of up to 8% within the OWF area, and induced maximal increases of the same magnitude in daily productivity also far from the wind farms. Our setup and modular coupling are effective tools for system scale studies of other environmental changes arising from large-scale offshore wind farming such as ocean physics and distributions of pelagic top predators.

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Acknowledgements

This research is funded by the Marine, Coastal and Polar Systems (PACES I) of the Hermann von Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren e.V. Kaela Slavik is funded by the European Commission Erasmus Mundus Masters Course in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management (MESPOM). Carsten Lemmen, Onur Kerimoglu and Knut Klingbeil received support from the “Modular System for Shelves and Coasts” (MOSSCO) grant provided by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung under agreements 03F0667A and 03F0667B; Onur Kerimoglu and Kai W. Wirtz are also supported by the DFG priority programme 1704 “Flexibility matters: Interplay between trait diversity and ecological dynamics using aquatic communities as model system” (DynaTrait) under grant agreement KE 1970/1-1. Knut Klingbeil is furthermore supported by the DFG Collaborative Research Center “Energy Transfers in Atmosphere and Ocean” TRR181. We thank all co-developers of the model coupling framework MOSSCO, foremost M. Hassan Nasermoaddeli and Richard Hofmeister. The authors gratefully acknowledge the computing time granted by the John von Neumann Institute for Computing (NIC) and provided on the supercomputer JURECA at Forschungszentrum Jülich. We are grateful to the open source community that provided many of the tools used in this study, including but not limited to the communities developing ESMF, FABM, GETM and GOTM.

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Guest editors: Steven J. Degraer, Vera Van Lancker, Silvana N.R. Birchenough, Henning Reiss & Vanessa Stelzenmüller / Interdisciplinary research in support of marine management

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Slavik, K., Lemmen, C., Zhang, W. et al. The large-scale impact of offshore wind farm structures on pelagic primary productivity in the southern North Sea. Hydrobiologia 845, 35–53 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-018-3653-5

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Keywords

  • Offshore wind farm
  • Primary productivity
  • North Sea
  • MOSSCO
  • Modular coupling
  • Biofouling