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EcoNex - The marine energy, biodiversity and food nexus

Offshore wind turbines

Completed project

Project start: August 2022  |  Project end: August 2023
Funder: UKERC
Principal Investigator: Dr Stephen Watson
Other participants from PML: Claire Szostek

The UK has plans to increase offshore wind capacity to 50 GW by 2030. This will require an understanding of the trade-offs between climate change and the multiple uses of marine natural resources. EcoNex is working with renewable industry and policy bodies to enable evidence-based, informed actions to improve decision making when balancing environmental, social, and economic impacts, ensuring marine net gain as part of national policy assessments.

Although the secondary impacts of offshore wind may not be as immediately obvious as onshore wind, they do exist. Impacts will be both positive, such as providing additional habitats for shellfish, but also potentially negative, for example to some bird and mammal species.  We currently have a poor understanding of the full implications of making such major changes to our offshore environment.

Decarbonizing the UK energy supply through the increased implementation of offshore wind therefore requires an understanding on the nexus of trade-offs between climate change and multiple uses of marine natural resources (energy extraction, fisheries, and marine protected areas).

The EcoNex project is taking a whole-system approach to assess changes in flows of ecosystem services and in stock values of natural capital at the nexus of climate change and marine uses of natural resources to examine benefits and trade-offs that can inform actions to ensure marine net gain.

The project is a collaboration between the University of Aberdeen and Plymouth Marine Laboratory with a range of partners representing the offshore renewable industry (├śrsted and ORE Catapult) and international academic collaboration with the Natural Capital Project, Stanford University.

The EcoNex project will complement the ongoing research of the Energy, Environment and Landscapes UKERC theme 3 programme.



Ensuring that offshore development is truly ‘green’ will be a major challenge for UK science in the coming years. As such, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, in collaboration with UKERC, are continuing our extensive research efforts to support these changes and ensure the most sustainable approach can be taken.