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Article Reference Developing expert scientific consensus on the environmental and societal effects of marine artificial structures prior to decommissioning
Thousands of artificial (‘human-made ’ ) structures are present in the marine environment, many at or approaching end-of-life and requiring urgent decisions regarding their decommissioning. No consensus has been reached on which decommissioning option(s) result in optimal environmental and societal outcomes, in part, owing to a paucity of evidence from real-world decommissioning case studies. To address this significant chal- lenge, we asked a worldwide panel of scientists to provide their expert opinion. They were asked to identify and characterise the ecosystem effects of artificial structures in the sea, their causes and consequences, and to identify which, if any, should be retained following decommissioning. Experts considered that most of the pressures driving ecological and societal effects from marine artificial structures (MAS) were of medium severity, occur frequently, and are dependent on spatial scale with local-scale effects of greater magnitude than regional effects. The duration of many effects following decommissioning were considered to be relatively short, in the order of days. Overall, environmental effects of structures were considered marginally undesirable, while societal effects marginally desirable. Experts therefore indicated that any decision to leave MAS in place at end-of-life to be more beneficial to society than the natural environment. However, some individual environmental effects were considered desirable and worthy of retention, especially in certain geographic locations, where structures can support improved trophic linkages, increases in tourism, habitat provision, and population size, and provide stability in population dynamics. The expert analysis consensus that the effects of MAS are both negative and positive for the environment and society, gives no strong support for policy change whether removal or retention is favoured until further empirical evidence is available to justify change to the status quo. The combination of desirable and undesirable effects associated with MAS present a significant challenge for policy- and decision- makers in their justification to implement decommissioning options. Decisions may need to be decided on a case-by-case basis accounting for the trade-off in costs and benefits at a local level.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2023
Article Reference Structurally stable but functionally disrupted marine microbial communities under a future climate change scenario: Potential importance for nitrous oxide emissions
The blue mussel Mytilus edulis is a widespread and abundant bivalve species along the North Sea with high economic and ecological importance as an engineer species. The shell of mussels is intensively colonized by microbial organisms that can produce significant quantities of nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas. To characterize the impacts of climate change on the composition, structure and functioning of microbial biofilms on the shell surface of M. edulis, we experimentally exposed them to orthogonal combinations of increased seawater temperature (20 vs. 23 ◦ C) and decreased pH (8.0 vs. 7.7) for six weeks. We used amplicon sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene to characterize the alpha and beta diversity of microbial communities on the mussel shell. The functioning of microbial biofilms was assessed by measuring aerobic respiration and nitrogen emission rates. We did not report any significant impacts of climate change treatments on the diversity of mussel microbiomes nor on the structure of these communities. Lowered pH and increased temperature had antagonistic effects on the functioning of microbial communities with decreased aerobic respiration and N2O emission rates of microbial
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2023
Article Reference Increased food availability at offshore wind farms affects trophic ecology of plaice Pleuronectes platessa
Offshore wind farms (OWFs) and their associated cables, foundations and scour protection are often constructed in soft- sediment environments. This introduction of hard substrate has been shown to have similar effects as artificial reefs by providing food resources and offering increased habitat complexity, thereby aggregating fish around the turbines and foundations. However, as most studies have focused their efforts on fish species that are typically associated with reef structures, knowledge on how soft sediment species are affected by OWFs is still largely lacking. In this study, we analysed the trophic ecology and condition of plaice, a flatfish species of commercial interest, in relation to a Belgian OWF. The combination of a stomach and intestine content analysis with the use of biomarkers (i.e. fatty acids and stable isotopes) identified a clear shift in diet with increased occurrences of typical hard-substrate prey species for fish in the vicinity of the foundations and this both on the short and the long term. Despite some condition indices suggesting that the hard substrate provides increased food availability, no clear increases of overall plaice condition or fecundity were found. Samples from within the wind farm, however, contained larger fish and had a higher abundance of females compared to control areas, potentially indicating a refuge effect caused by the cessation of fisheries activities within the OWF. These results suggest that soft-sediment species can potentially benefit from the presence of an OWF, which could lead to fish production. However, more research is still needed to further elucidate the behavioral ecology of plaice within OWFs to make inferences on how they can impact fish populations on a larger spatial scale.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2023
Article Reference Northern Europe ’ s suitability for offshore European fl at oyster (Ostrea edulis) habitat restoration based on population dynamics
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2023
Article Reference SEADETECT: developing an automated detection system to reduce whale-vessel collision risk
With the continuous intensification of marine traffic worldwide, whale-vessel collisions at sea (or “ship strikes”) have become one of the primary causes of mortality for cetaceans and a widely recognised cause of concern for human safety and economic losses. The Mediterranean Sea is a global hotspot for whale-vessel collisions, with one of the highest rates involving large cetaceans, especially the endangered fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). Evidence indicates that both species are experiencing higher chances of a fatal collision than what predictions have estimated so far, with ship strikes being the main human-induced threat in the area. Regional and international organisations have stressed the need to address the issue by investigating the projected impacts of ship strikes on whale populations and by identifying possible mitigation measures to reduce chances of collision. Amongst the most popular and feasible options, there is the improvement of animal detection during navigation. Here, we present SEADETECT, a LIFE project that aims at developing an automated detection system to reduce vessel collision risk with marine mammals and unidentified floating objects (UFOs), combining state-of-the-art and novel technologies with existing approaches in the study of large whale ecology. This detection system consists of three elements; an automated onboard detection system composed of several sensors, a real- time passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) network at sea and a real-time detection-sharing and alert system (REPCET®). In this paper, we propose the development of a mitigation measure framework tailored for the issue of collision with fin and sperm whales in the north-western Mediterranean Sea, but that has the transferability features necessary for its application in other high-risk areas for ship strikes worldwide.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2023
Article Reference Protected yet unmanaged: insights into the ecological status of conservation priority stony reefs in Belgian waters based on the integrative use of remote sensing technologies
Stony reefs are ecologically important, providing irreplaceable ecosystem services. These fragile environments are recognised as conservation priorities by all relevant global and European policies. Bottom-contacting fi sheries are an important source of anthropogenic disturbance to the sea fl oor ’ s physical and ecological integrity having immediate and destructive consequences on stony reefs and compromising ecological functions. This study, aimed to assess the ecological status (community composition and functions) of two stony reef areas -Northwest and Hinder Banks study sites -in Belgian waters using multiple remote sensing tools. Insights on the study sites ’ geomorphological context and fi shing patterns were gained using echo-sounding and publicly available satellite data. Video-based benthic community data were assessed against the exposure to fi shing pressure using a trait-based approach linked to the biotas ’ resistance and recovery potential. In the Northwest study site, between 2019 and 2022 there was a signi fi cant decline in the abundance of benthic species classi fi ed with low resistance and recovery potential to trawling. Conversely, there was a notable increase in species with moderate scores. During the same period, this site experienced an eight-fold increase in fi shing effort and the hydroacoustic data revealed the presence of several trawl-marks in 2022. Similar changes in benthic communities were observed in the Hinder Banks too. Here, the abundance of species with low resistance and recovery potential was signi fi cantly lower in locations that were geomorphologically exposed to trawling compared to sheltered ones. Exposed locations had a higher abundance of opportunistic species, with moderate to high scores. The presence of several trawl marks on the sea fl oor was observed in the exposed locations, corresponding to fi shing hotspots identi fi ed in the satellite data. Trawling activities marginally impacted richness and total abundance, but negatively altered benthic functional composition. The fi ndings of this study provide scienti fi c evidence of the detrimental impact of bottom-contacting fi sheries on conservation priority biotopes and argues against the coexistence of such activities with Marine Protected Areas. The results of our investigation are of interest to environmental managers for the adequate implementation of environmental legislation in the face of rapid and widespread anthropogenic changes.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2023
Article Reference To what extent can decommissioning options for marine artificial structures move us toward environmental targets?
Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy is key to international energy transition efforts and the move toward net zero. For many nations, this requires decommissioning of hundreds of oil and gas infrastructure in the marine environment. Current international, regional and national legislation largely dictates that structures must be completely removed at end-of-life although, increasingly, alternative decommissioning options are being promoted and implemented. Yet, a paucity of real-world case studies describing the impacts of decommissioning on the environment make decision-making with respect to which option(s) might be optimal for meeting in- ternational and regional strategic environmental targets challenging. To address this gap, we draw together international expertise and judgment from marine environmental scientists on marine artificial structures as an alternative source of evidence that explores how different decommissioning options might ameliorate pressures that drive environmental status toward (or away) from environmental objectives. Synthesis reveals that for 37 United Nations and Oslo-Paris Commissions (OSPAR) global and regional environmental targets, experts consider repurposing or abandoning individual structures, or abandoning multiple structures across a region, as the op- tions that would most strongly contribute toward targets. This collective view suggests complete removal may not be best for the environment or society. However, different decommissioning options act in different ways and make variable contributions toward environmental targets, such that policy makers and managers would likely need to prioritise some targets over others considering political, social, economic, and ecological contexts. Current policy may not result in optimal outcomes for the environment or society.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2023
Book Reference Esponjas marinas y de Agua Dulce del Peru
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2023 OA
Book Reference Joseph Charles Hippolyte Crosse (1826-1898) 2: contact network and selected correspondence from France, Germany and Spain
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2023 OA
Article Reference Revision of the Eurybrachidae (XVII). The new Australian genus Kamabrachys gen. nov. with ten new species (Hemiptera: Fulgoromorpha)
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2023 OA