Assessing ecological risks of offshore wind power on Kattegat cod
Journal article, 2014
Offshore wind power is expanding with particular development plans in the Baltic and the North Sea. To reassure an environmentally acceptable development, regulatory authorities need to make informed decisions even when evidence and experience are scarce. In this study Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) has been applied on a wind farm project in Kattegat, proposed within a spawning ground for the Kattegat cod, a threatened population of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L). Six stressors with potential impacts on cod and related to wind farms were investigated. Three of them - extreme noise from pile driving, noise from vessels, and disturbances due to cable-trenching - are related to the construction phase, while lubricant spills and noise from turbines together with electric fields from cables are related to the operation phase. The ecological risk was derived from the combined likelihood and magnitude of potential adverse effects from stressors to the cod population using a weight-of-evidence (WOE) ranking procedure. Available evidence was evaluated based on its reliability, and contradictory arguments were balanced against each other using evidence maps. The option of performing hazardous construction events (e.g. pile-driving) outside biologically sensitive periods was incorporated in the assessment. It was shown that the construction of the wind farm poses a high risk to cod, as defined by the ranked and combined likelihoods and magnitudes of adverse effects. However by avoiding particular construction events during the cod recruitment period ecological risks can be significantly reduced. Specifically for this case, ecological risks are reduced from high to low by avoiding pile-driving from December through June, which confirms previous indications that pile-driving is the most ecologically hazardous activity of offshore wind power development. Additional risk reduction is achieved by avoiding cable trenching from January through May. The study thus illustrates the effectiveness of time-planning for risk reduction. Importantly, the study illustrates how combined ERA and WOE methods can be valuable for handling uncertainties of environmental impacts within offshore industrial development. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Ecological risk assessment
Offshore wind power