Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere and its impact on the climate are a pressing concern for governments around the world. Reducing GHG emissions by changing the energy production mix is one option to reach targets being set by international communities. As the implementation of renewable and non-renewable energy infrastructure deployed in marine ecosystems increases, it is not clear how these changes will impact on the marine environment and the ecosystem services it provides. To address this knowledge gap a systematic mapping approach was applied, with three key aims: firstly, to provide an overview of the types of impacts being studied for the offshore components of nuclear, offshore oil & gas and offshore wind arrays; secondly to demonstrate how these impacts can be translated into ecosystem services; and finally to provide a searchable database of the results.
Searches for relevant articles were carried out using academic and grey literature databases. A total of 2297 articles were sourced, which were screened using selection criteria that determined which subject populations, exposure types and outcomes were considered relevant. To translate these findings into ecosystem service impacts, the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) and Millennium Ecosystem Assessment frameworks were used to ensure relevance, transparency and replicability.
A total of 50 articles, which equated to 208 studies, spanning four decades since 1970, were selected and coded for the systematic map. Across all energy systems, benthic species were the most studied group. Following this, results then varied by group; marine birds and fish were most prevalent in studies of offshore wind; fish for offshore oil & gas studies; and pelagic organisms for nuclear. The outcome variables most investigated were changes in population and ecosystem function/process. Of all the ecosystem services associated with the studied impacts, regulating services were investigated most often, due to the large number of studies on benthic organisms. Cultural services, specific to offshore wind, were also prevalent.
The systematic map provides a searchable database of articles and their relevant studies on the local ecological impacts of marine renewable energies. It has identified a number of potential future areas for primary research; for example, investigating the impacts of decommissioning offshore energy infrastructure on marine habitats and organisms.
Biodiversity, Ecosystem functions, Ecological impacts, Marine ecosystem services, Offshore energy systems
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