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Matthias Baeye and Michael Fettweis (2015)

In situ observations of suspended particulate matter plumes at an offshore wind farm, southern North Sea

Geo-Marine Letters.

Suspended particulate matter (SPM) plumes associated with the monopile foundations of the Belgian offshore wind farm (OWF) Belwind I were acoustically profiled by means of a Doppler current profiler (ADCP). Together with the analysis of a bottom lander dataset of optical and acoustic backscatter sensors (OBSs and ADPs respectively), the spatiotemporal SPM plume dynamics were inferred. The fieldwork comprised (1) near-bed measurements of hydrodynamics and SPM concentrations in the direct vicinity of the wind turbines, by means of a bottom lander over a spring–neap cycle in May 2010; this dataset represents a typically tidedriven situation because there was no significant meteorological forcing during the measurement period; (2) additional vessel-based measurements conducted in May 2013 to capture the SPM plumes inside and outside the OWF over part of a tidal cycle. Both in situ datasets revealed that the SPM plumes were generated at the turbine piles, consistent with aerial and space-borne imagery. The SPM plumes are well aligned with the tidal current direction in the wake of the monopiles, concentrations being estimated to reach up to 5 times that of the background concentration of about 3 mg/l. It is suggested that the epifaunal comunities colonizing the monopile surface and the protective rock collar at the base play a key role as source of the suspended matter recorded in the plumes. The organisms filter and trap fine SPM from the water column,resulting in predominant accumulation of SPM, including detritus and (pseudo-) faeces, at the base of the piles. When tidal currents exceed a certain velocity, fine particles in the nearbed fluff layer are re-suspended and transported downstream in the wake of the piles.
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