The impact of offshore wind across the marine food chain will be explored in a new project.
Led by Professor Beth Scott from the University’s School of Biological Sciences, the Physics-to-Ecosytem Level Assessment of Impacts of Offshore Windfarms (PELAgIO) research will cover all aspects of the food chain from plankton productivity to prey availability for predators.
It is one of three projects which are part of the Ecological Consequences of Offshore Wind research programme (ECOWind) which will investigate all possible effects of offshore wind on the marine environment. The findings from the programme, which is bringing together experts from science and policy, will inform policy measures designed to minimise negative impacts on marine life while tackling climate change.
In response to concerns over climate change and energy security, the UK Government has made ambitious targets for offshore renewable energy. To meet its goal of 50 GW of offshore wind power by 2050, the UK’s marine landscape will need to change considerably - which could impact the marine environment, alongside other marine users including the fishing industry. However, the cumulative effects of building offshore wind farms at such a scale, coupled with the consequences of other human activities on marine life, are not well understood, particularly when also considering the future effects of climate change on the sea.
Professor Scott said: “We will blend state-of-the-art platforms, ocean robots and satellite observations with cutting edge numerical modelling to design new low-carbon methods to provide the data and evidence needed to understand how plankton, fish and seabirds are interacting with these man-made additions to our oceans.
“Preliminary studies indicate that windfarms may influence the food production at the base of the marine food chain and our range of real data collection and modelling approaches will take this new understanding from physics to fish, to ecosystems to help ensure we make the most efficient use of our marine spaces.”