OSC is pleased to announce the release of a new peer-reviewed scientific article, ‘Influence of offshore oil and gas structures on seascape ecological connectivity’, published this week in Global Change Biology. Dr Victoria Todd, OSC’s managing director, worked with lead author Dr Dianne McLean and 44 other internationally renowned marine scientists on this collaborative paper, which reviews current knowledge on how oil and gas infrastructure affects the ‘ecological connectivity’ of the marine environment.

Offshore Oil & Gas structures (e.g. production platforms, wells, and pipelines) have a lifespan of 20–30 years, and are colonised by marine wildlife during this time, often becoming important habitats or foraging grounds for invertebrates, fish, and even megafauna. For some species, such as protected cold water coral, ‘source populations’ can also disperse up to 300 km from these structures, to colonise other areas. This knowledge prompted the ‘Rigs to Reefs’ concept, in which structures are left in the sea after operations finish; however, this framework is not used currently in Europe. Offshore structures can also have negative impacts on the marine environment, such as facilitating the spread of non-native species. 

The variety of marine wildlife associated with offshore structures (See article for full description.)

A literature review of current research was conducted as part of this paper, to compile information on movement of mobile species (e.g. fish and marine mammals) and invertebrate larvae around offshore structures. Based on the authors’ findings, and their wide-ranging expertise, ten questions were also identified to be important for future research. Crucially, a greater understanding is needed to evaluate how structures influence the dispersal, migration, and possibly breeding of marine species. 

This research paper also discusses the implications of different decommissioning options (e.g. partially or fully removing structures) on ecological connectivity. As industry scientists, OSC is proud to work at the interface of both sectors, and continue to actively conduct scientific research that will, in turn, inform the best environmental practices for commercial operations. 

OSC would like to thank Dr Dianne McLean, and all the authors involved in this collaboration. To read the full open-access paper, click here!

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