Ecosystem overviews

Greater North Sea Ecoregion

Pressure: Selective extraction of non-living resources from the seabed and subsoil

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​OSPAR reported in 2010 the extraction of 50 to 60 million m3 of marine mineral deposits each year in the OSPAR area, mainly for the construction industry, for use as fill sand on land, or for beach nourishment. About 80% of the total volume extracted in this area is extracted from the Greater North Sea. The biggest extractors are the Netherlands, the UK, France, and Denmark, showing a 30% increase in the total quantity of marine sand and gravel extracted. However, the total geographical extent of extraction areas has been relatively stable as new concessions have been offset by extraction activity ceasing in some areas. In the western English Channel, thick beds of maerl declined in extent and quality, partly as a result of damage resulting from maerl extraction for use as an agricultural soil conditioner. 

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​Oil and gas installations in the Greater North Sea, data from OSPAR. The dots are out of scale; in reality the ca. 600 structures with a safety zone (non-fishing area) of 500 m together occupy approx. 500 km2, which is less than 0.07% of the total North Sea area. In comparison, the present wind farms, also with non-fished safety zones of 500 m, occupy about 400 km2​. All authorized wind farms cover an area of 2584 km2. Due to decommissioning, the area occupied by oil and gas structures will decrease. If the planned increase in power of wind farms to 72 GW is established, the area occupied would be around 12000 km2, representing 1.6% of the total North Sea area. Click image to enlarge.

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Greater North Sea Ecoregion

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