Long-term effects of an offshore wind farm in the North Sea on fish communities

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Abstract

Long-term effects of the Horns Rev 1 offshore wind farm (OWF) on fish abundance, diversity and spatial distribution were studied. This OWF is situated on the Horns Reef sand bank in the North Sea. Surveys were conducted in September 2001, before the OWF was established in 2002, and again in September 2009, 7 yr post-establishment. The sampling surveys used a multi-mesh-size gillnet. The 3 most abundant species in the surveys were whiting Merlangius merlangus, dab Limanda limanda and sandeels Ammodytidae spp. Overall fish abundance increased slightly in the area where the OWF was established but declined in the control area 6 km away. None of the key fish species or functional fish groups showed signs of negative long-term effects due to the OWF. Whiting and the fish group associated with rocky habitats showed different distributions relative to the distance to the artificial reef structures introduced by the turbines. Rocky habitat fishes were most abundant close to the turbines while whiting was most abundant away from them. Species diversity was significantly higher close to the turbines. Overall, these results indicate that the artificial reef structures were large enough to attract fish species with a preference for rocky habitats, but not large enough to have adverse negative effects on species inhabiting the original sand bottom between the turbines.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine Ecology - Progress Series
Volume528
Pages (from-to)257-265
ISSN0171-8630
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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