Con­ser­va­tion re­port

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents -

The al­most ex­tinct north­ern white rhino

Ex­perts have backed the idea of leav­ing North Sea oil rigs and wind tur­bines in place when they come to the end of their work­ing lives.

Stud­ies show they pro­vide fan­tas­tic habi­tats for en­dan­gered Lophe­lia cold­wa­ter co­ral, which in turn can be a home for sharks and fish.

In a sur­vey, 36 (out of 38) sci­en­tists and consultants with rel­e­vant knowl­edge of the de­com­mis­sion­ing of oil and gas in­stal­la­tions said that treat­ing each one on “a case by case ba­sis” would pro­vide bet­ter “en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes”.

Anne-Mette Jør­gensen, who runs a not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion called North Sea Fu­tures, which aims to en­able the North Sea to thrive as an ecosys­tem, says that so­ci­ety needs to re­think the way that it deals with these old rigs.

“By set­ting out to re­move all 1,300 oil and gas in­stal­la­tions in the North Sea, we will be re­mov­ing ar­ti­fi­cial reefs to which the sur­round­ing ecosys­tem has long adapted, since they have been there for 20 to 30 years,” she adds.

In ad­di­tion, it is es­ti­mated that there could even­tu­ally be some­where be­tween 10–20,000 wind tur­bines in the North Sea if gov­ern­ments stick to their cli­mate change pledges, and these pro­vide habi­tat for reef sys­tems, too.

Rigs and tur­bines also act as de facto no-fish­ing zones, which means they will pro­tect the ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment from the dam­ag­ing im­pacts of, es­pe­cially, bot­tom trawl­ing. JF

North Sea oil rigs can make a valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to the ecosys­tem.

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