The Crown Estate

New Offshore Wind Study Aims to Deliver Net Gain for Marine Biodiversity

A new international project, led by The Crown Estate and the Dutch Rich North Sea programme, has gathered seabed data in one place to identify how biodiversity net gain can be delivered in tandem with the expansion of offshore wind.

The Crown Estate

According to The Crown Estate, the North Sea Net Gain study aims to ensure that decisions on the next generation of offshore wind farms will be based on the most comprehensive information and will bring biodiversity net gain.

Data collected by industry, government, and academic sources across seven countries have been brought together into a central data set containing almost 50,000 seabed samples with over 1.4 million records, and modelling techniques used to map benthic (seafloor) biodiversity across international boundaries. 

The project is funded by The Crown Estate’s GBP 25 million investment into its Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme, and by The Rich North Sea programme, and is delivered through an international collaboration between the UK government’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and Flemish marine research organisation The Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ).

It is supported by a project advisory group that includes members of Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

The study responds to an urgent need to improve understanding of the biodiversity of the seabed on a larger scale, The Crown Estate said.

Through the adoption of a big data approach, development of big data infrastructure, and expansion of an existing dataset, the findings of the study could enhance understanding of the seabed.

According to project participants, this will likely play a significant role in the sustainable development of offshore wind in the North Sea and the findings of this work will provide important context for decision makers.

The data is already being used in other Offshore Wind Evidence and Change programme projects to provide additional knowledge about the potential impact of offshore wind farms on biodiversity, including POSEIDON, a four-year project launched in January 2022 and led by Natural England, which aims to improve the knowledge of environmental risks across UK waters.

“Offshore wind is set to play a pivotal role in decarbonisation and the UK’s transition to net zero – but delivering on that potential in the most sustainable way requires balanced and holistic consideration of the natural environment and other marine activities,” said Huub den Rooijen, Managing Director of Marine at The Crown Estate.

This study, delivered through our Offshore Wind Evidence and Change programme, makes an important contribution to strengthening essential biodiversity data.  It will be invaluable not just to the UK but across the world, helping to ensure the successful and sustainable expansion of new offshore wind farms in other locations.”

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