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Do windmill parks function as a refugium?

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  • Ecology
  • Geography

Abstract

Do windmill parks function as a refugium? Derweduwen Jozefien1, Kris Hostens1, Jan Reubens2 and Sofie Vandendriessche1 1 Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO), Animal Sciences, Fisheries, Biological Environmental Research, Ankerstraat 1, B-8400 Oostende, Belgium E-mail: [email protected] 2 Research Group Marine Biology, Biology Department, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281, S8, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium Many countries are in the process of installing offshore windmill farms to comply with the European obligations to get 20% of their electricity consumption out of renewables by 2020. Two companies already exploit part of their wind farm in the Belgian part of the North Sea, located in a predefined offshore zone near the Dutch EEZ border. As part of the environmental impact monitoring, we investigate the effect of the wind farms on the soft-bottom epibenthic and demersal fish fauna. The zones where windmills are being built, are located on heavily exposed offshore sandbanks and are naturally characterised by a relatively poor benthic and demersal fish fauna. At least during the first years of exploitation we don’t expect spectacular changes in density of the soft-bottom fauna on the top of the sandbanks. However, other species are expected to become more abundant, (in)directly associated with the introduction of hard substrates (in casu the windmills). Secondly, we expect the windmill parks to serve as a refugium for several species, as commercial (bottom disturbing) fishing activities are prohibited inside the parks. Since December 2010, 55 windmills are operational in the Belwind concession zone (phase-I, 17 km²) on the Bligh Bank. On 22 September 2011, we got the first permission to operate an 8m- shrimp trawl between these monopiles from the RV Belgica. Preliminary results indicated the presence of several large individuals (>40 cm) of plaice (Pleuronectes platessa), turbot (Psetta maxima) and brill (Scophthalmus rhom

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