G3 - Ecosystem Modelling

G - Environmental And Ecosystem Aspects

Status - published
Last updated on: 12/11/2019


In order to understand the long term impact of Offshore Renewable Energy developments in the marine environment, we need to be able to make predictions of the cumulative effects of very large scale and multiple ORE developments throughout marine ecosystems.


An ecosystem modelling framework is needed to assess the ecological limits (carrying capacity) of marine systems, which can be used within a Marine Spatial Planning framework.

Context And Need


It is necessary to have an agreed approach to cumulative effects of very large scale (multi arrays of devices and across different types of offshore renewable energy), and to develop effective ecosystem models that have a range of 'currencies': carbon, economic (which can be derived via natural capital/ ecosystem services estimates) to feed into GVA models.


This can be achieved by the development of ecosystem models and a modelling framework that can handle a range of different 'currencies', such as carbon, economic social capital or ecosystem services capital, at the same time and have methodological agreement across disciplines.


The prediction of cumulative and interaction of multiple effects is needed in order to understand the long term impact of ORE developments on the marine environment and to inform marine planning. It will allow better future prediction or range of environmental impacts from physical changes up through food chain, including far-field and cumulative effects, and their impact on ecological limits and ecological carrying capacity, and put into context of climate change. Improved ecosystem modelling tools will enable environmental change prediction to be expressed as different ???currencies??? (i.e. Carbon, economic via natural capital/ecosystem services, social capital).

Impact Potential

Improved ecosystem modelling will enable better prediction of cumulative and long term interactions of ORE with the marine environment and will lead to lower costs of both CAPEX and OPEX significantly. These tools will improve the ability to predict optimal locations, sizes of developments and array design that is least likely to have adverse ecological and social effects.

New models with both more typical economic cost as well as natural capital costs in GVA outputs will be cutting edge science and will have potential to lower costs of CAPEX and OPEX significantly. Improved tools and understanding will increase cooperation across industries, encourage win/win solutions, enable sharing of resources, and potentially reduce conflict in ORE.

UK capacity to benefit

UK has some of the leading world experts in ecosystem models that include natural capital, ecosystem services and carbon modelling studies at the moment. A new agreed framework that add to traditional GVA could create new expertise /standards and be exported worldwide.

We have leading experts in UK, Marine Scotland Science (MSS), Marine Management Org (MMO), New UK Decommissioning Centre.

The UK has internationally recognised leading expertise and has the opportunity to strengthen this position and take a leading role globally in the establishment of standards for the ORE industry.

Research Status

There is a large NERC Programme: (MERP) http://www.marine-ecosystems.org.uk/Home that has recently finished and has produced a range of new ecosystem modelling approaches and methods for use of ensembles of model types.

The EcoWatt2050 project produced methods that can incorporate the physical changes of large scale energy extraction through to changes in fish, seabirds and mammals.

The Natural Capital /Ecosystem Services approach is becoming more mainstream. In UK we have the programme Valuing Nature http://valuing-nature.net/ (CEH/NERC) and the UK National Ecosystem Assessment http://uknea.unep-wcmc.org/

In the USA the leading group is The Natural Capital Project https://naturalcapitalproject.stanford.edu/

Marine spatial planning is now operational at governance level via Marine Plan and Marine (Scotland) Plan.

INSITE Programme: Influence of man-made Structures www.insitenorthsea.org

Maritime Alliance for fostering the European Blue Economy through a Marine Technology Skilling Strategy (MATES)


We would also like to invite UK researchers and industry stakeholders within ORE to submit links to research projects, both past and present, for inclusion within the landscape.

Therefore, if you have a UK-based research project within an area of ORE that you feel is relevant to a specific research theme or challenge within the Research Landscape, click HERE to submit your research project to the research landscape


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