Influence of offshore oil and gas structures on seascape ecological connectivity

McLean, Dianne L., Ferreira, Luciana C., Benthuysen, Jessica A., Miller, Karen J., Schlappy, Marie-Lise, Ajemian, Matthew J., Berry, Oliver, Birchenough, Silvana N.R., Bond, Todd, Boschetti, Fabio, Bull, Ann S., Claisse, Jeremy T., Condie, Scott A., Consoli, Pierpaolo, Coolen, Joop W.P., Elliott, Michael, Fortune, Irene S., Fowler, Ashley M., Gillanders, Bronwyn M., Harrison, Hugo B., Hart, Kristen M., Henry, Lea-Anne, Hewitt, Chad L., Hicks, Natalie, Hock, Karlo, Hyder, Kieran, Love, Milton, Macreadie, Peter I., Miller, Robert J., Montevecchi, William A., Nishimoto, Mary M., Page, Henry M., Paterson, David M., Pattiaratchi, Charitha B., Pecl, Gretta T., Porter, Joanne S., Reeves, David B., Riginos, Cynthia, Rouse, Sally, Russell, Debbie J.F., Sherman, Craig D.H., Teilmann, Jonas, Todd, Victoria L.G., Treml, Eric A., Williamson, David H., and Thums, Michele (2022) Influence of offshore oil and gas structures on seascape ecological connectivity. Global Change Biology, 28 (11). pp. 3515-3536.

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Abstract

Offshore platforms, subsea pipelines, wells and related fixed structures supporting the oil and gas (O&G) industry are prevalent in oceans across the globe, with many approaching the end of their operational life and requiring decommissioning. Although structures can possess high ecological diversity and productivity, information on how they interact with broader ecological processes remains unclear. Here, we review the current state of knowledge on the role of O&G infrastructure in maintaining, altering or enhancing ecological connectivity with natural marine habitats. There is a paucity of studies on the subject with only 33 papers specifically targeting connectivity and O&G structures, although other studies provide important related information. Evidence for O&G structures facilitating vertical and horizontal seascape connectivity exists for larvae and mobile adult invertebrates, fish and megafauna; including threatened and commercially important species. The degree to which these structures represent a beneficial or detrimental net impact remains unclear, is complex and ultimately needs more research to determine the extent to which natural connectivity networks are conserved, enhanced or disrupted. We discuss the potential impacts of different decommissioning approaches on seascape connectivity and identify, through expert elicitation, critical knowledge gaps that, if addressed, may further inform decision making for the life cycle of O&G infrastructure, with relevance for other industries (e.g. renewables). The most highly ranked critical knowledge gap was a need to understand how O&G structures modify and influence the movement patterns of mobile species and dispersal stages of sessile marine species. Understanding how different decommissioning options affect species survival and movement was also highly ranked, as was understanding the extent to which O&G structures contribute to extending species distributions by providing rest stops, foraging habitat, and stepping stones. These questions could be addressed with further dedicated studies of animal movement in relation to structures using telemetry, molecular techniques and movement models. Our review and these priority questions provide a roadmap for advancing research needed to support evidence-based decision making for decommissioning O&G infrastructure.

Item ID: 73279
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2486
Keywords: birds, ecosystem function, fish, hydrodynamics, invasive species, larval dispersal, marine megafauna, particle tracking, subsea infrastructure
Copyright Information: © 2022 Crown copyright and Commonwealth of Australia. Global Change Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This article is published with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland. This article has been contributed to by U.S. Government employees and their work is in the public domain in the USA. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2022 07:44
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4102 Ecological applications > 410206 Landscape ecology @ 50%
40 ENGINEERING > 4015 Maritime engineering > 401504 Ship and platform structures (incl. maritime hydrodynamics) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180507 Rehabilitation or conservation of marine environments @ 60%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180506 Oceanic processes (excl. in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean) @ 40%
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