What Is the Northeast Large Marine Ecosystem and Why Is It Important to Consider in Regards to Offshore Renewable Energy?

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Reviewed by: Andrew Lipsky

Last Update: September 14th, 2020

At the Global Ocean Summit Series: Session 4, Andrew Lipsky (Fisheries & Offshore Wind Lead at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, NOAA) explains what shapes the Northeast large marine ecosystem (LME) and why it is an important consideration as the development of offshore wind progresses.

Large marine ecosystems (LMEs) are areas of coastal oceans delineated on the basis of ecological characteristics that cover large areas on the order of 200,000 km2 and greater1. The Northeast LME is shaped by a number of factors including the flow of water from the north, the influence of major river systems and wind & tidal forces. 

Water mass characteristics like temperature, salinity and oceanographic features (circulation patterns and the position of frontal zones) affect every aspect of the ecology of the system at all levels of the food web, basic biology of individual species and migration pathways. 

By 2030, multiple thousands of wind turbines and approximately 8,000 km of submarine cable are expected to be developed within the Northeast LME. As this new ocean use advances, it must also be considered within the context of the LME. For instance, how will the development of offshore wind on an industrial scale affect those species that are protected under the Endangered Species Act or the 60 managed fisheries in the region that have been operating for decades if not centuries? How will the development affect the complex habitats and the ecosystem itself?

The effects of offshore wind will occur throughout the pre-construction, construction, operation and decommissioning phases of each development. Lipsky explains that these various effects call upon the Northeast Fisheries Science Center mission as the cumulative effects have the potential to change the overall ecosystem by way of changes in oceanography, habitat alteration, soundscapes, and food provisioning. So, the development of offshore wind is an issue that is coming before the LME that must be carefully researched and monitored as it moves forward.



[1] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Central Library