Modelling small scale impacts of Multi-Purpose Platforms: an ecosystem approach

Aquaculture and marine renewable energy are two expanding sectors of the Blue Economy in Europe. Assessing the long-term environmental impacts in terms of eutrophication and noise is a priority for both the EU Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, and cumulative impacts will be important for the Maritime Spatial Planning under the Integrated Maritime Policy. With the constant expansion of aquaculture production, it is expected that farms might be established further offshore in more remote areas, as high-energy conditions offer an opportunity to generate more power locally using Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) devices. A proposed solution is the co-location of MRE devices and aquaculture systems using Multi-Purpose Platforms (MPPs) comprising offshore wind turbines (OWTs) that will provide energy for farm operations as well as potentially shelter the farm. Disentangling the impacts, conflicts and synergies of MPP elements on the surrounding marine ecosystem is challenging. Here we created a high-resolution spatiotemporal Ecospace model of the West of Scotland, in order to assess impacts of a simple MPP configuration on the surrounding ecosystem and how these impacts can cascade through the food web. The model evaluated the following specific ecosystem responses: i) top-down control pathways due to distribution changes among top-predators (harbour porpoise, gadoids and seabirds) driven by attraction to the farming sites and/or repulsion/killing due to OWT operations; ii) bottom-up control pathways due to salmon farm activity providing increasing benthic enrichment predicated by a fish farm particle dispersal model, and sediment nutrient fluxes to the water column by early diagenesis of organic matter (recycled production). Weak responses of the food-web were found for top-down changes, whilst the results showed high sensitivity to increasing changes of bottom-up drivers that cascaded through the food-web from primary producers and detritus to pelagic and benthic consumers respectively. We assessed the sensitivity of the model to each of these impacts and the cumulative effects on the ecosystem, discuss the capabilities and limitations of the Ecospace modelling approach as a potential tool for marine spatial planning and the impact that these results could have for the Blue Economy and the EU’s New Green Deal.


Serpetti N, Benjamins S, Brain S, Collu M, Harvey BJ, Heymans JJ, Hughes A, Risch D, Rosinski S, Wilson B

Frontiers in Marine Science 8
07, 8, 2021
Pages: 694013
DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2021.694013