|LAND-OCEAN INTERACTIONS IN THE COASTAL ZONE (LOICZ)|
Analyzing Coastal and Marine Changes
– Offshore Wind Farming as a Case Study –
Zukunft Küste – Coastal Futures - Synthesis Report
In: LOICZ Research and Studies No. 36, 2010:
GKSS Research Center, LOICZ International Project Office, 2010,
gefördert vom Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)
Many coastal areas are known for their resources and economic wealth, and many are famed for their scenic beauty. Use functions of the coast include among others fishing, shipping, port development, recreation, conservation, coastal defense or military defense. On the other hand coastal and marine areas experience physical and ecological as well as social and economic change caused by pressure from climate change and globalization processes. This change may include changes in species composition, hydrodynamic and morphological patterns, but also new patterns of land and sea use, all together translating into challenges for planning and management.
In the German North Sea the main challenge is the emergence of offshore wind farming because it demands a considerable proportion of the available sea space and because the sheer scale of the proposed developments has led to a series of environmental, social and economic questions.
Against this background the research project Zukunft Küste - Coastal Futures had been designed to extend the knowledge base for Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) by using offshore wind farming in the German North Sea as a case study for sea use change. The project, which encompassed several German research groups, was funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) from April 2004 - April 2010.
In order to come to a holistic assessment of impacts from offshore wind farms on the coastal system, a range of existing approaches had to be adopted and new methodologies had to be devised. The resulting research design analytically integrates not only results of social and natural science investigations, but also links qualitative empirical research and quantitative modeling.
Zukunft Küste - Coastal Futures research included a) to discuss future sea use patterns using a scenario approach, b) to analyze and model impacts of offshore wind energy on specific ecosystem services as well as socio-economic impacts at local and regional scale, and c) to analyze stakeholder positions and their underlying values and beliefs as well as related planning processes and policies. Design and interim development of the project considerably gained from and contributed to extended exchange within the global LOICZ science community.
Conceptually, Zukunft Küste - Coastal Futures applied a systems approach, particularly framing wind farming in the sea as a social ecological system with nested scales. Translating this way of thinking into a series of scenarios, which were structured along the DPSIR framework and represent different visions about the future of the North Sea, supported the identification of structures and processes at multiple scales. It also assisted in identifying antagonistic and synergistic cross scale interactions between existing sea and land uses, which can constrain the potential development of offshore wind farms.
Framed by the scenarios, the use of monitored data, model results and qualitative estimations contributed to the assessment of the impacts on the North Sea ecosystem services and related economic opportunities. A further step of integration was the merge of the DPSIR framework and the ecosystem services approach, which assisted in drawing connections between sea use, the provision of ecosystem services, the resulting level of ecological integrity and human well being.
Even though the presented results are subject to many uncertainties and therefore have a mainly indicative character, they provide a spotlight on risks and opportunities associated with large scale offshore wind farm development.
In relation to planning and management of coastal and marine areas, a main result from Coastal Futures is the need to deal with use patterns in order to identify cumulative impacts and the compatibility of different sea uses within the same area. For example some bird species avoid both, wind farms and intensively used shipping areas. A spatial accumulation of both activities can therefore result in severe habitat loss. For planning and management this implies that cumulative impacts resulting out of the pattern of different sea uses are more relevant for ecosystem functioning than impacts resulting out of one particular wind farm project.
Given such direct and indirect impacts, maximizing spatial efficiency and minimizing conflicts of use is not a one-off, but a dynamic process that will need to adaptively respond to actual developments in sea use. Patterns of use can shift as a result of changing dynamics within individual sectors and in response to external forces. This can alter the balance of uses and the relative significance of certain uses over others. It follows that monitoring of external driving forces is particularly important in the coastal and marine context including processes of globalization (e.g. affecting port development and shipping), technological developments (e.g. use of hydrogen, energy technology or ‘blue’ biotechnology), or policy developments (e.g. energy policy, security of energy supply, climate policy).
Societal values and attitudes are another essential driving force that influences decision-making processes, preferences and political processes. Attitudes to new technology and risk, for example, will impact on what is deemed acceptable in terms of sea use and what might remain controversial. This has been shown in the different attitudes to offshore wind held by different stakeholder groups, for example. Traditional approaches to planning are not particularly suited to deal with contradictory value sets and the potential value conflicts surrounding offshore wind farms. Similarly, contradictory policy targets are difficult to overcome. Therefore accompanying tools are required that go beyond the classic approaches of planning such as zoning. These might have to include a holistic vision and coherent strategies for marine area development as well as targeted non-statutory participatory mechanisms for strategic dialogues. As shown by local examples statutory and non-statutory processes should be seen as useful complements within a broader governance system and are not necessarily contradictive.
Altogether, sea use changes such as offshore wind farming are examples of complex unstructured problems characterized by uncertain available knowledge and diverging stakeholder perceptions.
Despite some shortcomings, the feasibility to use the DPSIR framework to link socio-economic drivers, pressures and responses along an integrated ecological impact assessment, which is based on the ecosystem service approach has been demonstrated in Coastal Futures. Applied more widely, such approaches have the potential to strengthen the information base for decision making in the context of ICZM and Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) considerably.