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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2014

Effects of offshore wind farms on marine wildlife-a generalized impact assessment

Bergström, Lena; Kautsky, Lena; Malm, Torleif; Rosenberg, Rutger; Wahlberg, Magnus; Åstrand-Capetillo, Nastassia; Wilhelmsson, Dan


Marine management plans over the world express high expectations to the development of offshore wind energy. This would obviously contribute to renewable energy production, but potential conflicts with other usages of the marine landscape, as well as conservation interests, are evident. The present study synthesizes the current state of understanding on the effects of offshore wind farms on marine wildlife, in order to identify general versus local conclusions in published studies. The results were translated into a generalized impact assessment for coastal waters in Sweden, which covers a range of salinity conditions from marine to nearly fresh waters. Hence, the conclusions are potentially applicable to marine planning situations in various aquatic ecosystems. The assessment considered impact with respect to temporal and spatial extent of the pressure, effect within each ecosystem component, and level of certainty. Research on the environmental effects of offshore wind farms has gone through a rapid maturation and learning process, with the bulk of knowledge being developed within the past ten years. The studies showed a high level of consensus with respect to the construction phase, indicating that potential impacts on marine life should be carefully considered in marine spatial planning. Potential impacts during the operational phase were more locally variable, and could be either negative or positive depending on biological conditions as well as prevailing management goals. There was paucity in studies on cumulative impacts and long-term effects on the food web, as well as on combined effects with other human activities, such as the fisheries. These aspects remain key open issues for a sustainable marine spatial planning.


offshore wind farm; marine ecology; environmental impact; surveillance programme; marine spatial planning

Published in

Environmental Research Letters
2014, volume: 9, number: 3

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Kautsky, Lena
Stockholm University
Malm, Torleif
Stockholm University
Rosenberg, Rutger
University of Gothenburg
Wahlberg, Magnus
University of Southern Denmark
Åstrand-Capetillo, Nastassia
Stockholm University
Wilhelmsson, Dan
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG7 Affordable and clean energy
SDG14 Life below water

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