offshore gas platform - INSITE
University researchers: Dr Antony Knights (Principal Investigator), Dr Anaelle Lemasson: Marine Eco-engineering Research Unit
Partners: Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Centre for Environment; Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas); University of St Andrews; Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, Harte Research Institute (HRI); University of Hull and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
Funded by: Natural Environment Research Council - UKRI
Duration: 2022-2023 

The lifecycle of marine man-made structures

With the development of the blue economy, and shift to offshore renewable energy thousands of man-made structures (MMS) have been installed around the world. With the potential for these MMS to have significant pressures and effects on marine ecosystems at all stages of their life cycle – installation, operation and decommissioning –  the effects are currently not wholly understood or agreed on scientifically.
Furthermore, one of the key questions in managing MMS is how nation states will manage the delivery of net zero requirements offshore, together with marine environmental restoration goals, linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals amongst others. A consensus needs to be reached around decommissioning practices, and the risks and benefits of leaving MMS in place.

Synthesising a science consensus

INSITE Synthesis is a collaborative project, led by Plymouth Marine Laboratory, that aims to provide independent scientific evidence base to understand the influence of MMS on the ecosystem of the North Sea and inform policy and regulatory decisions. With the complex nature of marine systems and their management, a world-wide consortium of scientists from across the whole system will take a systems analysis approach to determine causes, consequences and management responses to change.
The project will produce a position paper setting out the consensus view on the environmental implications of deploying MMS at scale, leaving it non-operational in situ, and removing it with details of ecosystem and societal consequences and trade-offs.
offshore wind. wind turbine

Phase one – evidence, criteria and conceptual models

In January 2022, the Synthesis team hosted a series of workshops bringing together expert scientists from around the world. Together, information was gathered regarding the relative ecological effects of MMS in the sea and what could or should be done about them. 
Collation of this feedback is currently underway.

Centre for Systems Thinking: Ocean, Land and Society

The Centre for Systems Thinking: Ocean, Land and Society champions a whole-system transdisciplinary approach to solutions-oriented research to improve planetary health. The Centre brings together an unrivalled critical mass of catchment-coast-ocean expertise from across the University’s Strategic Research Institutes to address 21st-century challenges alongside national and international policy. 
Plymouth, UK: Marina Drone Photos, credit: Drone Motion Stock, courtesy of ShutterstockCentre for Systems Thinking lead image