Impact of offshore installations on marine life

Wageningen Marine Research conducts research into the positive and negative effects of industrial infrastructure, such as wind turbines and production platforms, on the North Sea ecosystem. Underwater infrastructure forms artificial reefs that may attract species and increase biodiversity. Our research generates scientific knowledge for the debate about removal or partial removal of artificial offshore installations.

  • Effecten van offshore installaties op het onderwaterleven

Oil and gas platforms, wind farms, and shipwrecks, wave power plants, as well as floating islands (for solar panels or other applications) in the future, develop into artificial reefs with abundant biodiversity. Eventually, these artificial structures will become part of the ecosystem. As a result of the 500-meter safety zone, when excluding fisheries, they are in fact nature reserves.

Role in the ecosystem

Wageningen Marine Research is conducting research into the role of these artificial reefs in the ecosystem. Which type of benthic organisms and fish are propagating? What will be the impact if the number of reefs increases (cumulative effect)? Does the propagation of species, including non-native species, pose a risk? How does this impact the food web?

Food production

We are also examining whether these areas can be used for food production at sea, including the cultivation of seaweed or shellfish and sea ranching with oysters, crabs and lobsters.

Dismantle it or leave it?

Over the coming decades, decisions must be made worldwide about 7,500 obsolete oil and gas platforms. Under current regulations, obsolete platforms are almost always fully dismantled. New scientific insights may contribute to a reversal of that policy, such as by advocating to leave the underwater portion in place in order to allow the ecosystem to continue to benefit from the newly formed reef.

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Our solutions

  • Professional scientific divers
  • Taxonomic inventory of benthic organisms and growth on platforms
  • DNA metabarcoding for biodiversity assessment
  • Video analysis of inspection footage
  • Development of methods and techniques for nature-inclusive scour protection around the base of wind turbines and cables (BENSO project)
  • Pilot projects into food production of shellfish, seaweed, and fish in wind farms and around offshore platforms in collaboration with ministries and fishermen.


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