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Influence of offshore oil and gas structures on seascape ecological connectivity

McLean, Dianne L.; Ferreira, Luciana C.; Benthuysen, Jessica A.; Miller, Karen J.; Schläppy, 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; Love, Milton; Hyder, Kieran; 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.; Thums, Michele


Dianne L. McLean

Luciana C. Ferreira

Jessica A. Benthuysen

Karen J. Miller

Marie Lise Schläppy

Matthew J. Ajemian

Oliver Berry

Silvana N.R. Birchenough

Todd Bond

Fabio Boschetti

Ann S. Bull

Jeremy T. Claisse

Scott A. Condie

Pierpaolo Consoli

Joop W.P. Coolen

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Professor Mike Elliott
Emeritus Professor of Estuarine and Coastal Sciences/ Research Professor, Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies

Irene S. Fortune

Ashley M. Fowler

Bronwyn M. Gillanders

Hugo B. Harrison

Kristen M. Hart

Lea Anne Henry

Chad L. Hewitt

Natalie Hicks

Karlo Hock

Milton Love

Kieran Hyder

Peter I. Macreadie

Robert J. Miller

William A. Montevecchi

Mary M. Nishimoto

Henry M. Page

David M. Paterson

Charitha B. Pattiaratchi

Gretta T. Pecl

Joanne S. Porter

David B. Reeves

Cynthia Riginos

Sally Rouse

Debbie J.F. Russell

Craig D.H. Sherman

Jonas Teilmann

Victoria L.G. Todd

Eric A. Treml

David H. Williamson

Michele Thums


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.


McLean, D. L., Ferreira, L. C., Benthuysen, J. A., Miller, K. J., Schläppy, M. L., Ajemian, M. J., …Thums, M. (2022). Influence of offshore oil and gas structures on seascape ecological connectivity. Global change biology, 28(11), 3515-3536.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Jan 19, 2022
Online Publication Date Mar 16, 2022
Publication Date 2022-06
Deposit Date Jun 1, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 1, 2022
Journal Global Change Biology
Print ISSN 1354-1013
Electronic ISSN 1365-2486
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 11
Pages 3515-3536
Keywords Birds; Ecosystem function; Fish; Hydrodynamics; Invasive species; Larval dispersal; Marine megafauna; Particle tracking; Subsea infrastructure
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© 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.<br /> his 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.

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