Offshore wind farms - ecological effects of noise and habitat alteration on fish
Abstract: There are large gaps in our understanding how fish populations are affected by the anthropogenic noise and the alteration of habitat caused by the construction and operation of offshore wind farms. These issues are of great importance as the construction of offshore wind farms will increase all over the world in the near future. This thesis studies these effects with a focus on fish. The wind turbine foundations function as artificial reefs and are colonized by invertebrates, algae and fish. The epibenthic assemblages are influenced by factors such as hydrographical parameters, time of submergence, distance to natural hard bottom, material and texture (PAPER I, II). Once an epibenthic assemblage has been developed, fish utilize it for different ecosystem services such as food, shelter, and spawning and nursery area. Benthic and semi-pelagic species show a stronger response to the introduced foundation than pelagic species, as it is the bottom habitat that has mainly been altered (PAPER I, II). Pelagic species could be positively affected by the increased food availability - but it takes time and the effect is local.Construction noise like pile driving creates high levels of sound pressure and acoustic particle motion in the water and seabed. This noise induces behavioural reactions in cod (Gadus morhua) and sole (Solea solea). These reactions could occur up to tens of kilometres distance from the source (PAPER III). During power production, the wind turbines generate a broadband noise with a few dominating tones (PAPER IV, V), which are detectable by sound pressure sensitive fish at a distance of several kilometres even though intense shipping occurs in the area. Motion sensitive species will only detect the turbine noise at around a ten meter distance. Sound levels are only high enough to possibly cause a behavioural reaction within meters from a turbine (PAPER IV, V).
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