Biodiversity and multifunctional use of old production platforms and new offshore wind farms

Offshore structures in the Dutch North Sea provide a habitat for a range of species such as anemones, soft corals, edible crabs and many others that are not found elsewhere on the predominantly sandy sea floor. Up to date, very little is known about the species community that is associated with hard substrates in our sea. Parameters such as species richness, biomass and role in the food web remain to be elucidated.

In the past, large oyster beds, peat banks as well as stones and rocks originating from glaciers covered large parts of our sea floor. Most of these have now disappeared. In recent decades however, new hard substrates have been introduced. Would these platforms, wind farms and shipwrecks enrich the North Sea biodiversity in a similar way?

The aim of this study is to fill that gap in our knowledge: to study the effect of hard substrates on biodiversity. We want to investigate the role of hard substrates as stepping stones for certain species. An important part of the study will focus on the question whether decommissioned platforms can be deployed as artificial reefs to increase biodiversity (rigs-to-reefs).