Hard substrate determines the distribution of specific species in the North Sea. In the past there was more submerged hard substrate in the North Sea than today. E.g. large oyster beds, peat banks and glacial boulders were found. Most of these hard substrates have disappeared.
However, humans also introduced new substrates, e.g. shipwrecks, platforms, wind farms and future multiple use platforms. These artificial hard substrates may play an important role for species that depend on hard substrates as places to settle.
In this project we will investigate the biodiversity on these man-made hard structures. We will compare historic and present natural hard substrate communities to those on artificial hard substrates. A description of the biodiversity of macro fauna on and near these hard substrates will be compiled using diving surveys and data and video footage from oil & gas and wind farm companies.
A database of genetic information on hard substrate macro fauna will be created. With this, a system for rapid quantification of local biodiversity will be developed. This may result in a method to map the community with very limited field effort. If feasible this method will be used for in situ sampling in the second half of this project.
The role of these structures in the distribution of species in the North Sea will be modelled and use of substrates by commercially important marine species will be investigated. We will also investigate whether biodiversity arguments facilitate deployment of platforms as artificial reefs. Results will be made public in a dissertation, peer-reviewed articles and online.