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Offshore wind farms affect the spatial distribution pattern of plaice Pleuronectes platessa at both the turbine and wind farm scale
Buyse, J.; Hostens, K.; Degraer, S.; De Backer, A. (2022). Offshore wind farms affect the spatial distribution pattern of plaice Pleuronectes platessa at both the turbine and wind farm scale. ICES J. Mar. Sci./J. Cons. int. Explor. Mer 79(6): 1777-1786. https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsac107
In: ICES Journal of Marine Science. Academic Press: London. ISSN 1054-3139; e-ISSN 1095-9289, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Pleuronectes platessa Linnaeus, 1758 [WoRMS]
    Marine/Coastal

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Abstract
    We investigated how the distribution of plaice Pleuronectes platessa, a typical soft-sediment fish species, has been affected by the introduction of hard substrate [turbines and scour protection layer (SPL)] at both turbine and wind farm scale in two Belgian offshore wind farms (OWFs). Diving transects (40 m) at 11 monopiles revealed four times higher plaice abundances on the sandy patches of the SPL (average radius 16.5 m) compared to the surrounding sand. We suggest that the configuration of the SPL, i.e. an open rock field, offering increased food and shelter opportunities, with sandy patches in between, facilitating the natural burrowing behaviour of plaice, forms the basis for the increased plaice abundances at the turbine scale. At the wind farm scale, beam trawl catches in between the turbines and in reference zones revealed significantly increased plaice abundances in one OWF, which suggests that wind farms can act as refuge areas for plaice, at least under specific conditions. Differences in environmental conditions, turbine foundation type, and surrounding fishing pressure may explain the equivocal findings between both OWFs, whereas low statistical power could have hampered the detection of general refuge effects. Next to the integration of different spatial scales (turbine/wind farm) within one study, longer-term monitoring and including extra life history parameters (e.g. length and sex ratio) might enhance the detectability of potential refuge effects.

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