Functional traits of the fauna associated with offshore wind farms.

In recent years, many European coastal areas witnessed the installation of offshore wind farms, as the demand for renewable energy is increasing. As a consequence of the European 2030 Energy Strategy, even more offshore wind farms will be contructed in the coming years. While these windfarms indeed provide renewable energy, they induce important physical changes in the marine realm. Constructing offshore wind farms results in the introduction of hard substrate in areas that used to be exclusivy sandy. As such, large quantities of new habitat are introduced, which are rapidly colonised by fouling fauna, in huge densities and high diversity, which cascades in the attraction of commercial fish species (i.e. cod) and large crustaceans (edible crab, lobster). Thanks to detailed monitoring programmes, there is detailed information on structural changes in marine fauna (densities, biomass and diversity), but it is still unclear how these new communities affect the functioning of the marine environment, both at the local (turbine - wind farm) or regional (i.e. Southern Bight of the North Sea). One the hand, this is due to logistic constraints and safety issues related to working in offshore wind farms, on the other hand there is also a lack of well-structured data allowing for an ecosystem-functioning oriented analyses.

Within this professional practice, students will assist in filling the data gap by contributing to the first functional trait databased compiled for (artificial)hard substrate fauna. The available long-term monitoring data on the fouling fauna of wind turbines on the Belgian Part ab of the North Sea will be made available to the interns, and need to be reorganised and amended with functional trait data. These data will be compiled trough a dedicated literature study and added to a relational trait database. When interested, interns can assist in preliminary data-analyes based on the completed data compilation.

Language requirements: 
Safety issues: 
Additional costs to be covered by the student: