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Offshore wind farms in the context of ecosystem-based marine spatial management


Brown crab (Cancer pagurus) (c) Thünen-Institut/Holger Haslob
The brown crab (or edible crab) profits from the ecological conditions within the wind farm and is deemed to be an attractive resource for fisheries. (© Thünen-Institut/Holger Haslob)

The project “Offshore wind farms in the context of ecosystem-based marine spatial management” will explore the effects of offshore wind farms on the ecosystem.

Background and Objective

The compatibility of nature conservation, the development of wind energy and the use of natural resources constitutes a challenge, particularly in coastal areas. Our team aims to investigate the effects of offshore wind farms on maritime fauna, focussing on commercially important species such as cod, brown crab or oyster.

Target Group

Science, Industry, Politics, Nature conservation


The project aims at the following scientific questions: (i) suitability of wind farms as a potential spawning area for cod; (ii) local increase of brown crab and its spatial expansion, a so called "spillover-effect" into the nearest vicinity of the wind farm as a consequence; (iii) suitability of the wind farm or its surrounding for sustainable aquaculture techniques.

Data and Methods

The Thünen-Institute aims for those scientific goals in close collaboration with the operator of the wind farm Meerwind Süd/Ost on the basis of two experimental set-ups within the wind farm and the close vicinity of the wind farm (500 m security buffer zone):

  • Assessment of cod progeny in order to reconstruct the spawning behaviour and suitability of the wind farm as a reproduction and resting area for cod in the Southern North Sea.
  • Sampling of brown crab abundance to analyse the population structure in the close vicinity to the wind farm. Further, the distribution of brown crab will be studied to identify a potential "spillover-effect" in adjacent waters.

Moreover, our work takes part in close collaboration with the Alfred-Wegener Institute (AWI) on previous and ongoing studies to:

  • Define ecological baselines for sustainable aquaculture techniques near wind farms
  • Analyse the economic viability for offshore aquaculture
  • Develop potential marketing strategies in close collaboration with local businesses

Finally, outcomes will be widely disseminated to the public, e.g. by an exhibition "Offshore wind farms in the context of ecosystem-based marine spatial management".

Our Research Questions

  • Does cod use wind farms as (preferred) spawning area?
  • Do wind farms lead to a local increase of the abundance of brown crab?
  • Does the spatial expansion of brown crab lead to a "spillover-effect" in the nearest vicinity of the wind farm?
  • How suitable are wind farms or their surroundings for sustainable aquaculture techniques?

Links and Downloads


Involved Thünen-Partners

Involved external Thünen-Partners

Funding Body

  • European Union (EU)
    (international, öffentlich)


3.2018 - 2.2020

More Information

Projekt type:
Project status: ongoing

Das Projekt wird vom Thünen-Institut in Kooperation mit dem Alfred-Wegner-Institut und dem Windparkbetreiber WindMW Service GmbH durchgeführt und mit Mitteln des Bremer Umweltsenators aus dem Programm für Angewandte Umweltforschung (AUF) sowie Mitteln aus dem Europäischen Fonds für Regionale Entwicklung (EFRE) gefördert.