What evidence exists on the local impacts of energy systems on marine ecosystem services: a systematic map
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
Increasing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHG) and its impact on the climate has resulted in many international governments committing to reduce their GHG emissions. The UK, for example, has committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Suggested ways of reaching such a target are to increase dependency on offshore wind, offshore gas and nuclear. It is not clear, however, how the construction, operation and decommissioning of these energy systems will impact marine ecosystem services, i.e. the services obtained by people from the natural environment such as food provisioning, climate regulation and cultural inspiration.
Research on ecosystem service impacts associated with offshore energy technologies is still in its infancy. The objective of this review is to bolster the evidence base by firstly, recording and describing the impacts of energy technologies at the marine ecosystems and human level in a consistent and transparent way; secondly, to translate these ecosystem and human impacts into ecosystem service impacts by using a framework to ensure consistency and comparability. The output of this process will be an objective synthesis of ecosystem service impacts comprehensive enough to cover different types of energy under the same analysis and to assist in informing how the provision of ecosystem services will change under different energy provisioning scenarios.
Relevant studies will be sourced using publication databases and selected using a set of selection criteria including the identification of: (i) relevant subject populations such as marine and coastal species, marine habitat types and the general public; (ii) relevant exposure types including offshore wind farms, offshore oil and gas platforms and offshore structures connected with nuclear; (iii) relevant outcomes including changes in species structure and diversity; changes in benthic, demersal and pelagic habitats; and changes in cultural services. The impacts will be synthesised and described using a systematic map. To translate these findings into ecosystem service impacts, the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) and Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) frameworks are used and a detailed description of the steps taken provided to ensure transparency and replicability.