In order to establish a clearer picture of the development of the benthic community in wind farms, surveys have been conducted in the Princes Amalia wind farm (PAWP) in 2003, 2012, 2013 and 2017 to map out benthic developments on the soft substrate (in other words, the sandy bed). The next benthos survey is scheduled for 2022.
The North Sea is a relatively shallow sea: the Dutch section is about thirty metres deep on average. Typically, the bed of the Dutch North Sea consists of sand waves, sandbanks and gullies covered with sand and silt. Locally, there are also gravel banks or areas with boulders, reminders of the last ice age. The bed is home not only to fish but also to many different bed-dwelling creatures – benthos – including starfish, worms, shellfish, snails and crustaceans.
The North Sea is an area that is used intensively for many purposes such as fishing, shipping, oil and gas extraction, sand extraction, and wind farms.
The construction of a wind farm alters the area to some extent. The turbine piles and the scour protection layer introduce hard substrate to a sandy environment. In addition, other activities are excluded from the area. However, it has recently been decided to allow passage through, and the shared use of, the areas of a few wind farms.
Originally, a Wozep study was also planned to look at the development of benthos on hard substrate (monopiles and scour protection). Due to amendments in the legislation, it is no longer permitted to work with divers around offshore installations (including wind turbines), we are looking for alternative research methods.
Read the development report (pdf, 3 MB) about development ten years after PAWP went operational here (in Dutch)