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Fossil and renewable energy production takes places in proximity to or within the Wadden Sea. The development of offshore wind energy in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark has been rapid in the last decades and will even speed up in this decade. Up to now, more than 2,000 wind turbines have been built offshore in the North Sea within the territorial waters and the EEZs of the three countries. Although the Wadden Sea conservation area is exempt from wind farm development the grid connections and interconnectors traverse the Wadden Sea as well, also affecting the area directly. Beside wind energy, the North Sea is also a place for the exploitation of fossil fuels. Crude oil is exploited from one platform in Schleswig-Holstein in the German Wadden Sea since 1987 and there are several gas mining projects in the Netherlands that extend under the Wadden Sea. For the transportation of fossils from those platforms and further offshore installations to the mainland and for interconnection of countries several cables and pipelines were installed crossing the Wadden Sea. Although the expansion of regenerative energy is necessary to combat climate change all kinds of energy production can also have effects on the environment. Impacts are construction-related (e.g., underwater noise, disturbance of the seafloor), operational (e.g., electromagnetic fields, heat dissipation, spills or ground surface subsidence) or plant-related (collision risk for migrating birds and scaring of birds, sealing of surfaces). All forms of energy production cause an increase in ship traffic and also aerial traffic due to construction and maintenance of facilities with scaring effects for birds and marine mammals and an increased risk of accidents. There are numerous international and national guidelines for the promotion, regulation, and spatial planning of renewable energy (construction and grid connections) and for the exploitation of oil and gas in force, both in the adjacent areas and within the territorial waters. This report gives an overview about the most important policies and regulations regarding the Wadden Sea. The Wadden Sea Plan (2010) presents the common policy that no wind turbines shall be erected in the Nature Conservation Area. This is incorporated in the Danish legal ordinance, the German national park laws and the Dutch nature reserve (PKB area). Both, for Wadden Sea Plan Targets, as well as for the OUV criteria and their key values examples for energy production related impacts and measure are given. Furthermore, an analysis on the (potential) conflicts of energy from oil and gas and renewable energy production and transportation activities with the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) according to its criteria and the associated key values is presented.
Birds migrating across offshore areas at night under certain weather conditions become attracted by artificial light and approach and even collide with vessels. In order to mitigate these effects during the construction of an Immersed Tunnel across the Fehmarnbelt between the Danish island of Lolland and the German island of Fehmarn, the German Plan Approval decision requires light mitigation measures and monitoring of the bird collision risks during the migration periods. It requires an Environmental Construction Inspection (ECI) to oversee the following mandatory measures as outlined in an official light management concept. The Fehmarnbelt Tunnel is the first Project required to implement a light management for offshore construction works to protect nocturnal bird migration. As it proved to be a challenging task to coordinate this Project over several years with over 50 work vessels, a new approach was developed by ECI together with the Project Owner and the Contractors how these obligations can be fulfilled: The core of the approach is the self-monitoring of the construction vessels and the relevant vessel crews are trained to respond to events when birds approach the vessels at night. ECI monitors bird migration by two far-reaching weather-radar stations and it identifies conditions which might lead to an increased collision risk. Crews are then informed through evening warnings sent to all project vessels. This presentation shows how a supervised self-control of the Contractor can fulfil the requirements on light-management to protect bird migration and evaluate the approach based on first experiences of five months of migration.
Underwater noise immissions from construction vessels has been subject to intensive discussions in the planning phase of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link Project, because of a lack of national or international standards to measure and assess noise from shipping and dredging. The Fehmarnbelt-though one of the busiest waterways in Europe-holds important numbers of the protected harbor porpoise, and the Immersed Tunnel will cross a protected Natura 2000 area established for this endangered population. The German Plan Approval decision limits Project-related underwater noise (mostly vessel-based construction noise) to facilitate porpoise migration through the Fehmarnbelt and to limit disturbance in the Natura 2000 area. Furthermore, Project-related noise immissions must be monitored to meet strict thresholds throughout the construction phase. Monitoring Project-related underwater noise is challenging as the soundscape of the Fehmarnbelt is dominated by commercial shipping noise which usually exceeds noise emitted by the construction vessels of the Project. Therefore, underwater noise monitoring cannot be performed solely by measurements. The approach chosen is an underwater noise model supported by parallel underwater noise measurements. The real-time model predicts the natural background noise as well as vessel-based noise. Based on source levels assigned to vessels as well as the relevant parameters influencing sound propagation, the model calculates the sound spread by every vessel in the area based on their positions derived from AIS data. This allows modeling ambient noise (i.e., the sum of all non-Project-related noise) and Project-related sounds separately in real time. Sound immissions along the construction sites are continuously measured with hydrophones and the noise recordings are used to evaluate model predictions and to calibrate the model. In this paper, first experiences with this twin approach of modelling and measuring from the Fehmarnbelt construction site are outlined.
The application of Very-High-Resolution (VHR) satellites to survey cetaceans has gained considerable tractionover the last decade. Large whale species in particular lend themselves to detection by VHR imagery of ~0.50mresolution or less. Processing of satellite images can be manually intensive, and consequently artificial intelligencemethods are underpinning progress in this field. We have developed a method that uses a Faster-R-CNN (Region-based Convolutional Neural Network) object detection algorithm to process VHR imagery. This has been coupledwith a manual species identification stage and packaged as the SPACEWHALE service. The service was used toacquire and process WorldView-2 archival images (~0.50 m resolution) of Port Ross, Auckland Island -Maukahuka in August 2020 to investigate the detection of southern right whales during the austral winter on thiswell-known breeding ground. The period of image acquisition coincided with boat-based surveys of the areawhich were used to compare the effectiveness of SPACEWHALE. The number of whales detected by bothmethods were equivalent, despite the 12-hour difference between the timing of data collection. The number ofcalves detected by satellite was slightly lower than the boat-based surveys, likely due to the algorithm missingcalves that were completely obscured by their mothers during the snapshot survey. Use of higher resolution images(~0.30 m) may improve detection of calves that are not entirely hidden by their mothers. The SPACEWHALEsurvey did provide additional coverage and possible whale detections in a secondary area that has received littleon-the-water survey effort; whilst this area is more exposed than Port Ross and is likely less suitable habitat, asthe population continues to grow, areas beyond Port Ross may warrant research effort to determine whether thisis a potential extension of core habitat or serves some other biological function for the whales (e.g., foraging).Satellite surveys are an effective alternative to monitor large whales in remote areas and can be used to augmentexisting data and to help explore and fill data gaps.
Expansion of offshore wind energy is vital for the reduction of CO2 emissions. However, offshore wind farms may negatively impact the environment without proper planning. Here we assess the robustness of the conclusions of earlier studies that the strictly protected red-throated diver, Gavia stellata, is strongly displaced from wind farms in the German Bight (North Sea). We modelled the distribution of divers based on two independent data sets, digital aerial surveys and satellite telemetry, in relation to the dynamic offshore environment and anthropogenic pressures. Both data types found that divers were strongly displaced from wind farms in suitable habitat. The displacement effect gradually decreased with distance from the wind farms (being very strong up to 5 km away), but a significant effect could be detected up to 10–15 km away. The telemetry data further indicated that the displacement distance decreased with decreasing visibility. The displacement distance was also shorter during the day than during the night, potentially as a response to aviation and navigation lights of the wind farms. These findings should be taken into consideration in marine spatial planning to avoid cumulative impacts on red-throated diver populations.