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Organic matter processing in a [simulated] offshore wind farm ecosystem in current and future climate and aquaculture scenarios
Voet, H.E.E.; Vlaminck, E.; Van Colen, C.; Bodé, S.; Boeckx, P.; Degraer, S.; Moens, T.; Vanaverbeke, J.; Braeckman, U. (2023). Organic matter processing in a [simulated] offshore wind farm ecosystem in current and future climate and aquaculture scenarios. Sci. Total Environ. 857(Part 1): 159285.
In: Science of the Total Environment. Elsevier: Amsterdam. ISSN 0048-9697; e-ISSN 1879-1026, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Climate change; Carbon assimilation; Offshore wind farm; Aquaculture; Mesocosm experiment

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    The rapid development of blue economy and human use of offshore space triggered the concept of co-location of marine activities and is causing diverse local pressures on the environment. These pressures add to, and interact with, global challenges such as ocean acidification and warming. This study investigates the combined pressures of climate change and the planned co-location of offshore wind farm (OWF) and aquaculture zones on the carbon flow through epifaunal communities inhabiting wind turbines in the North Sea. A 13C-labelled phytoplankton pulse-chase experiment was performed in mesocosms (4 m3) holding undisturbed hard-substrate (HS) communities, natural sediment with infauna, and mobile invertebrate predators. Carbon assimilation was quantified under current and predicted future-climate conditions (+3 °C and −0.3 pH units), as well as a future-climate co-use scenario with blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) aquaculture. Climate change induced an increase in macrofaunal carbon assimilation as well as an organic enrichment of underlying sediments. Dynamic (non-)trophic links between M. edulis and other HS epifauna resulted in shifts among the species contributing most to the phytoplankton-derived carbon flow across climate scenarios. Increased inter- and intraspecific resource competition in the presence of M. edulis aquaculture prevented a large increase in the total assimilation of phytoplankton by HS fauna. Lower individual carbon assimilation rates by both mussels and other epifauna suggest that if filter capacity by HS epifauna would approach renewal by advection/mixing, M. edulis individuals would likely grow to a smaller-than-desired commercial size. In the same scenario, benthic organic carbon mineralisation was significantly boosted due to increased organic matter deposition by the aquaculture set-up. Combining these results with in situ OWF abundance data confirmed M. edulis as the most impactful OWF AHS species in terms of (total) carbon assimilation as well as the described stress responses due to climate change and the addition of bivalve aquaculture.

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