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The potential of offshore windfarms to act as marine protected areas A systematic review of current evidence

Citation Ashley, M.C., Mangi, S.C. and Rodwell, L.D. The potential of offshore windfarms to act as marine protected areas A systematic review of current evidence. 2013. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2013.09.002.
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Author(s) Ashley, M.C., Mangi, S.C. and Rodwell, L.D.
Opus Title Marine Policy
Pages 301-309
Volume 45
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2013.09.002

As offshore windfarm (OWF) construction in the UK is progressing rapidly, monitoring of the economic and ecological effects of these developments is urgently needed. This is to enable both spatial planning and where necessary mitigation in an increasingly crowded marine environment. One approach to mitigation is co-location of OWFs and marine protected areas (MPAs). This systematic review has the objective to inform this co-location proposal and identify areas requiring further research. A limited number of studies addressing marine renewable energy structures and related artificial structures in coastal waters were found. The results of these studies display a change in species assemblages at artificial structures in comparison to naturally occurring habitats. An increase in hard substrata associated species, especially benthic bivalves, crustaceans and reef associated fish and a decrease in algae abundance were the dominant trends. Assemblages associated with complex concrete structures revealed greater similarity to natural hard substrata compared to those around steel structures. To consider marine renewable energy sites, especially large scale OWFs as MPAs, the dissimilar nature of assemblages on the structures themselves to natural communities should be considered. However positive effects were recorded on the abundance of commercially important crustacean species. This suggests potential for incorporation of OWFs as no fishing, or restricted activity zones within a wider MPA to aid fisheries augmentation. The limited available evidence highlights a requirement for significant further research involving long term monitoring at a variety of sites to better inform management options.