Cumulative ecological effects assessment of offshore wind farms (COWF)

Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: School of Water, Energy and Environment


Determining the cumulative effects (CE) of human activity on the environment requires the combined impacts of a single activity or multiple activities to be considered. This is particularly true in the marine environment where many existing activities (e.g. fishing, aggregates, MPAs, climate change) impact the environment and newer developments (e.g. offshore wind farms) are being integrated into the overall anthropogenic footprint of effects on the environment. There is currently poor baseline information and a fragmented approach to CE assessment, which leads to highly uncertain analysis and increased environmental risk. Marine policy and legislation has clearly identified CE and potential interactions with climate change among the strategic priorities for the future. This projects aims to bring together evidence from existing and new laboratory studies of multiple stressors on benthic organisms and the communities they are part of and field based assessments of benthic communities under different environmental impact within a recently developed CE framework. To achieve the aim the project sets out a sequence of research activities for the proposed PhD student which includes joining an existing internationally experienced laboratory team studying effects on benthic communities of multiple stressors (relating to cliamte change) and adding their own elements identified through the conceptual framework. There will also be a complimentary study that will contrast benthic community data from two very different human activities: aggregate extraction and offshore wind farm developments. Cefas will train the student and provide access to aggregate data and CU and the Belgian partner (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences) will deal with offshore wind farms and the effects on the benthos. Bringing together the two different data studies will allow the student to determine the linkages between the studies in the context of the framework, thereby providing an evidence-based approach to developing a realistic CE assessment framework for application by marine environment related decision makers.


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