Wave energy schemes proposed for the seas off Scotland can co-exist with important kelp habitats, according to a new report for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
Kelp habitats are among the most productive ecosystems on earth and are important drivers of coastal biodiversity. In Scotland alone, kelp forests support more than1800 other plant and animal species, including invertebrates, fish, diving birds and otters.
Planned or proposed future wave energy renewables projects may coincide with important kelp habitats around Scotland’s coasts, and so have the potential to affect how these kelp ecosystems function.
The report, ‘Understanding the potential effects of wave energy devices on kelp biotopes’,prepared for SNH by SAMS Research Services Ltd, concludes that kelp habitats in Scotland are tolerant of high levels of natural disturbance. They are also far more extensive than the most optimistic plans for wave energy exploitation.
Accordingly, the scale of predicted impacts from wave developments is not considered significant on a regional or national scale. Individual projects may, though, have localised impacts on kelp communities and the report offers a useful tool for developers and consultants to assess and manage the impacts of each.
Tracey Begg, the SNH officer who led the project, said:
“As the marine renewables industry expands in Scotland, it is important to ensure it does so without impacting upon our outstanding marine biodiversity.
“This report outlines best practice, mitigation and monitoring that will ensure wave developments and kelp can co-exist without damaging these important coastal habitats.”