Spatial assessment of benthic compensatory habitats for offshore wind farm impacts.
This project aims to identify benthic habitats that, whilst not classified as the same, have a similar or identical ecological function and ecosystem service provision to one another. A list of 13 Annex I, Broad-Scale Habitat (BSH) and Features of Conservation Interest (FOCI) protected habitats identified as being at greatest risk of adverse effect as a result of future OWF development was provided by Natural England. From this, a further 38 habitats were identified as having the potential to provide similar or identical ecosystem service provision to the original 13 key habitats. Following an evidence review, scores for a range of ecosystem services and sensitivities were determined for each of the 51 habitats. Benthic habitat clusters were identified through multivariate analysis of the assigned ecosystem service scores. A total of 16 benthic habitat clusters were determined, comprising habitats of similar or identical ecological function and ecosystem service provision. A series of interactive maps were produced that demonstrate both a habitat cluster's spatial extent, and its potential confidence within a given area to provide same feature compensation. Following review of the spatial output, findings indicate that whilst some habitats have a wider range of similar habitats available in English waters for compensatory measures should they be required, others have only limited equivalent, or close equivalent substitutes. Results highlight habitats with limited equivalent ecosystem service habitat availability, those that currently have limited spatial data availability, and those limited in both respects.