Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Marine Life Flourishing Beneath Off-Shore Wind Turbines

January 19th, 2010

Not only do off-shore wind turbines not harm marine life, but they actively encourage more of it, a very encouraging study has just concluded, after closely following the effects of the off-shore wind farms being built off the European coast. A Swedish Scientist at the Stockholm University's Zoology Department studying the effects of off-shore wind turbines discovered that marine life has become more abundant and diverse near the foundations. Dan Wilhelmsson found that offshore wind turbines constitute habitats for fish, crabs, mussels, lobsters and plants.

The seabed in the vicinity of the wind turbines had higher densities of fish compared to further away from the turbines and in control areas. This was despite that the natural bottoms were rich in boulders and algae. Blue mussels dominated on the wind turbines that appeared to offer good growth conditions. "Hard surfaces are often hard currency in the ocean, and these foundations can function as artificial reefs. Rock boulders are often placed around the structures to prevent erosion (scouring) around these, and this strengthens the reef function," says Dan Wilhelmsson.

Not only were the foundations giving a boost to marine life, but interestingly, we might be able to build-in features to them in such a way as to enhance conditions to favor those species that need more protection. "With wind and wave energy farms, it should be possible to create large areas with biologically productive reef structures, which would moreover be protected from bottom trawling. By carefully designing the foundations it would be possible to favor and protect important species, or, conversely, to reduce the reef effects in order minimize the impact on an area," says Dan Wilhelmsson.

Come to think of it, this shouldn't come as such a surprise. There are many instances of sunken boats, planes and other metal and concrete objects having been thoroughly repurposed by the creatures of the deep for their own needs. We already use artificial reefs to rebuild populations of marine life.