In response to our societal need to generate energy, man-made structures (MMS) have been built into our coastal and marine environments. The structures range from oil and gas installations, associated pipelines and seabed infrastructure, and now we also look towards a replacement for carbon-fuelled electricity via offshore wind farms.
Inevitably, these structures host communities by providing habitat and shelter, and potentially serve as stepping-stones for the spread of some species (some of whom will be non-indigenous). In addition to deliberately placed structures, shipwrecks can also serve a similar function. In turn, the biodiversity that develops on MMS can affect biological, hydrodynamic and biogeochemical processes from the water column to the seafloor, either directly (e.g. scouring, organic matter export from piles) or indirectly (e.g. population dynamics or closure/displacement of fisheries) and, hence, ecosystem functioning is also affected at various spatial and temporal scales. When flow-on effects in surrounding areas are included, the footprint of these structures is much larger than just the physical area. Science has an important role to play in both development decision-making as well as decommissioning, and we need a robust evidence base for informed environmental management decision-making. We need to be clear about what how future MMS that are put into the marine environment will affect the marine biological ecosystems, what should happen to these structures when they have been decommissioned and what the ecological best practice is in relation to decommissioning and rigs/renewables-to-reefs.
Academics, stakeholders, industry and government representatives and interested parties will come together for talks, e-posters, networking and discussion about man-made structures already within the marine ecosystem, and any new infrastructures that may be put in place over the coming decades.
Let’s talk about the impacts, benefits and implications of these structures, and discuss how we can accelerate our understanding to support policy and regulatory decisions.
Dr Emma Defew
Marine Alliance for Science and Technology (MASTS)
Emma is the Programme Coordinator for the Marine Alliance for Science & Technology for Scotland (MASTS). MASTS works collaboratively with the INSITE programme around the theme of structures in the marine environment, and has supported the SIME conference since its inception.