The Environmental Status of Artificial Structures Offshore California

Grant Application Deadline: 
Friday, July 30, 2021

Offshore energy development changes the distribution and abundance of local marine habitats and species via the introduction of artificial substrate. This “artificial reef” effect potentially modifies a variety of local and regional processes, including those that drive the ecological dynamics of managed, sensitive, or non-native species. Artificial reefs may also enhance certain human activities such as fishing or diving. Decision makers must therefore understand how offshore projects that contribute significant amounts of hard substrate into the marine environment may be evaluated, managed, and potentially incorporated into an artificial reef program. In the Pacific OCS Region, habitat issues are of particular importance due to (1) the imminent decommissioning of oil and gas platforms, which may remove potentially important habitat for managed fish species; and (2) the introduction of new artificial habitat from floating offshore wind platforms. Information produced from this study will be used in NEPA and consultation documents when reviewing offshore projects that add marine infrastructure into the environment. The objectives of this study are to (1) Use relevant ecological indicators (e.g., productivity, biodiversity, biomass, etc.) to develop an improved understanding of how local or regional factors influence the variation in environmental status observed in marine infrastructure/facility/obstruction habitats (i.e., de facto artificial reefs) within the Pacific Region, particularly the Southern California Planning Area; (2) Generate a set of environmental criteria to evaluate potential artificial reef effects from future individual projects that may add or leave marine infrastructure in the environment; and (3) Gain insight in determining if existing energy infrastructure affects other uses of the outer continental shelf (OCS).