The use of ‘ecological risk‘ for assessing effects of human activities: an example including eutrophication and offshore wind farm construction in the North Sea
This paper takes the move from the uncertainty surrounding ecosystem thresholds and addresses the issue of ecosystem-state assessment by means of ecological integrity indicators and ‘ecological risk‘. The concept of ‘ecological risk‘ gives a measure of the likelihood of ecosystem failure to provide the level of natural ecological goods and services expected/desired by human societies. As a consequence of human pressures (use of resources and discharge into the environment), ecosystem thresholds can be breached thus resulting in major threats to human health, safety and well-being. In this study we apply the concept of ‘ecological risk‘ to two case-studies in the German exclusive economic zone: eutrophication and construction of offshore wind farms. The effects of different future scenarios for single-uses upon ecosystem integrity are analysed as well as the effects of one combined scenario. We conclude that in the short term construction of offshore wind farms can influence some processes to a much larger degree than eutrophication, however, combined impacts deriving from eutrophication and offshore wind farm construction need a more detailed analysis. Due to non-linear ecosystem processes, effects of combined or multiple uses of marine resources in terms of ‘ecological risk‘, cannot be extrapolated from single-use scenarios.