A paradigm for understanding whole ecosystem effects of offshore wind farms in shelf seas

Natalie Isaksson, Beth E Scott, Georgina Hunt, Ella Benninghaus, Morgane Decclerk, Kate Gormley, Caitlin Harris, Sandra Sjöstrand, Neda Trifonova, James Waggitt, Juliane Wihsgott, Charlotte Williams, Arianna Zampollo, Benjamin Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the rapid expansion of offshore windfarms (OWFs) globally, there is an urgent need to assess and predict effects on marine species, habitats, and ecosystem functioning. Doing so at shelf-wide scale while simultaneously accounting for the concurrent influence of climate change will require dynamic, multitrophic, multiscalar, ecosystem-centric approaches. However, as such studies and the study system itself (shelf seas) are complex, we propose to structure future environmental research according to the investigative cycle framework. This will allow the formulation and testing of specific hypotheses built on ecological theory, thereby streamlining the process, and allowing adaptability in the face of technological advancements (e.g. floating offshore wind) and shifting socio-economic and political climates. We outline a strategy by which to accelerate our understanding of environmental effects of OWF development on shelf seas, which is illustrated throughout by a North Sea case study. Priorities for future studies include ascertaining the extent to which OWFs may change levels of primary production; whether wind energy extraction will have knock-on effects on biophysical ecosystem drivers; whether pelagic fishes mediate changes in top predator distributions over space and time; and how any effects observed at localized levels will scale and interact with climate change and fisheries displacement effects.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfsad194
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2023


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