Mobile demersal megafauna at artificial structures in the German Bight – Likely effects of offshore wind farm development

Roland.Krone [ at ]


Within the next few decades, large underwater structures of thousands of wind turbines in the northern European shelf seas will substantially increase the amount of habitat available for mobile demersal megafauna. As a first indication of the possible effects of this large scale habitat creation on faunal stocks settling on hard substrata, we compared selected taxa of the mobile demersal megafauna (decapods and fish) associated with the foundation of an offshore research platform (a wind-power foundation equivalent) with those of five shipwrecks and different areas of soft bottoms in the southern German Bight, North Sea. When comparing the amount of approximately 5000 planned wind-power foundations (covering 5.1 _ 106 m2 of bottom area) with the existing number of at least 1000 shipwrecks (covering 1.2 _ 106 m2 of bottom area), it becomes clear that the southern North Sea will provide about 4.3 times more available artificial hard substratum habitats than currently available. With regard to the fauna found on shipwrecks, on soft substrata and on the investigated wind-power foundation, we predict that the amount of added hard substrata will allow the stocks of substrata-limited mobile demersal hard bottom species to increase by 25e165% in that area. The fauna found at the offshore platform foundations is very similar to that at shipwrecks. Megafauna abundances at the foundations, however, are lower compared to those at the highly fractured wrecks and are irregularly scattered over the foundations. The upper regions of the platform construction (5 and 15 m depth) were only sparsely colonized by mobile fauna, the anchorages, however, more densely. The faunal assemblages from the shipwrecks and the foundations, respectively, as well as from the soft bottoms clearly differed from each other. We predict that new wind-power foundations will support the spread of hard bottom fauna into soft bottom areas with low wreck densities.

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DOI 10.1016/j.ecss.2013.03.012

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Krone, R. , Gutow, L. , Brey, T. , Dannheim, J. and Schröder, A. (2013): Mobile demersal megafauna at artificial structures in the German Bight – Likely effects of offshore wind farm development , Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 125 , pp. 1-9 . doi: 10.1016/j.ecss.2013.03.012

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